The domino effect is a common phrase that refers to a simple action that leads to much greater and more catastrophic consequences. It’s also an excellent metaphor for how the events of a story unfold in a seamless action that builds to a climax. Whether you’re an off-the-cuff writer or plan your manuscript down to the last detail, understanding how to use the domino effect will help you write an effective plot that readers will enjoy.
Dominoes are small wooden or plastic blocks that can be stacked on end in long lines and then tipped over to cause the next domino to tip and the one after that, and so on. When done correctly, these dominoes can form very complex designs. The pips on the ends of each domino indicate what number it will show when played, and different games require certain numbers to be played in particular places. For example, a double cannot be played square to another domino that shows a four, but must be placed diagonally across the end of the line.
Unlike many other toys, dominoes have a very practical application, as they can be used to create structures like curved lines, grids that form pictures, and even 3D walls and towers. Creating these structures requires planning and careful observation, and can be a fun way to spend an afternoon.
But Dominoes aren’t just a fun hobby; they can also be a useful model for understanding how nerve cells, or neurons, work. For example, a domino has a lot of similarities to a firing neuron: Both are driven by energy, both move at the same speed regardless of their size, and both travel only in one direction.
When playing domino, players take turns placing tiles on the table. Each tile must be positioned so that its matching ends are adjacent, and it can only be played to a domino that has the same number showing on both of its ends. The other players make note of the numbers on the ends of their opponents’ tiles and try to avoid playing a tile that will lead to a domino chain with the other player’s number as its starting point.
The most basic domino game is for two players and uses a set of 28 dominoes that are shuffled face down to form the stock or boneyard. Each player draws seven tiles from the boneyard and places them on the table, positioning them so that each has a match with a domino that has the same number on both its ends. The first tile to be played must touch the end of the domino that is touching it, and this begins a chain that develops into a snake-line according to the whims of the players.
During the Cold War, many people feared that communist China would spread its influence across Asia, leading to a domino effect of Soviet collapse and eventual disintegration of Indochina into a series of independent nations. In response, the United States shifted its strategy from support of the Ngo Dinh Diem regime in South Vietnam to support of non-communist forces fighting the civil war there. This policy, based on the Domino Theory, helped prevent communism from spreading throughout Southeast Asia.