The Domino Effect

A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, each side bearing either a blank surface or dots resembling those on dice. When you play with them, you set them up in a straight or curved line and then flick the first one. Then, the rest fall in a cascade of rhythmic motion. Often, the domino effect is so impressive that you think it’s magic. But it’s really just simple physics.

Dominoes have been made of many materials: stone (e.g., marble, granite and soapstone); other types of woods such as ebony; metals including brass and pewter; and ceramic clay and crystal. They are also available in polymer, a kind of plastic that doesn’t break easily. Typically, the pieces are twice as long as they are wide, making them easier to stack and re-stack after use.

The most popular use of domino is in positional games. These require the players to place domino tiles edge-to-edge onto a flat surface so that their adjacent sides are identical or form some specified total. The first player to reach the desired total wins the game. The way that the dominoes are placed is part of the fun, and each piece must be positioned correctly in order to form an effective chain. This is referred to as “stitching up” the ends.

While dominoes are usually used in a linear sequence, they can be arranged in circular or symmetrical patterns, or in three-dimensional structures such as towers. There are also non-positional games, in which the players try to impose their own rules on the outcome by blocking or scoring points with particular combinations of tiles. In these games, the value of each domino is determined by its pips (spots). A double has two equal values, while a single has just one.

In writing, the domino effect refers to a narrative sequence in which the hero or heroine moves closer to or farther away from his or her goal. This technique can add suspense and tension, but it is important to be careful not to overdo it. Too much of a domino effect can make a story feel overlong or repetitive, and readers will lose interest quickly.

For example, if you set up a series of scenes in which the hero loses or gains control of a situation, the last scene should clearly indicate how the rest of the plot will unfold. A good writer will carefully consider the domino effect when composing a novel. Then, the reader will enjoy watching all the scenes — and events — come together in an exciting, well-paced way. The word “domino” is also used to describe a company or organization that has achieved success in the face of great odds. In the context of business, Domino’s Pizza, founded in 1967 by Peter Monaghan, is an excellent example. The company’s early success can be attributed to its emphasis on placing pizzerias in the right locations, especially near college campuses where students craved the fast-service that Domino’s offered.