Writers and the Domino Effect
Domino, from Latin dominus, is a word that means “lord” or “master.” In a game of domino, players take turns placing tiles on the board. Each tile has a number of spots, or pips, that correspond to a particular value. Some pips are blank; other pips have different arrangements of colors and shapes. The first player to place a tile with matching pips wins the round. There are many variants of domino, including a set with 91 tiles called a double-twelve or a twelfth-eighth pair (double-nine).
Dominoes are a popular toy that teach children the principles of chance and strategy. They also encourage motor skills. In fact, many of today’s most popular games are adaptations of domino.
The domino effect, as described by the author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, refers to a pattern of behavior that occurs when a small change in one activity causes a chain reaction of related changes in other activities and habits. For example, when Jennifer Dukes Lee began making her bed each morning she was not necessarily trying to improve the cleanliness of her home; but as a natural side effect she also started to keep other parts of her house more neatly organized.
While this type of behavior can be frustrating for writers who try to impose their will on their characters, it is a good illustration of the principle behind the Domino Effect. This is why writers need to carefully consider how they will cause their scenes to unfold, whether they write their manuscripts using a detailed outline or the more organic method of writing by the seat of their pants.
For example, if the character in a mystery begins to uncover clues but the subsequent scene fails to raise tension or build suspense, something is amiss. In other words, the scene needs to “dominate” the next one, just as a domino knocks down all of its neighbors.
This is especially true for writers who do not use an outline or Scrivener to guide them through the process of creating a story. Those who write by the seat of their pants are more likely to encounter scenes that do not make enough logical sense or have sufficient impact on those which come before them. This can be especially challenging when plotting a story from multiple points of view, which may require juggling scenes that do not connect well. Fortunately, there are ways to weed out these scenes without ruining the overall flow of the story. This article will explore some of these techniques, which can be applied to a variety of genres.