Domino, the small rectangular blocks that can be stacked on end in long lines to form intricate patterns, are an iconic toy. But they’re also a metaphor for life. If one small trigger initiates a chain reaction with greater–and sometimes catastrophic–consequences, it’s known as the domino effect. This idiom has roots in the Cold War and other political scenarios, but is now used to describe any situation in which one action starts a series of events that leads to larger consequences.
Domino, also called bones, cards, men, or pieces, are usually twice as wide as they are tall and have a line in the middle that divides them visually into two square faces with a pattern of spots or pips resembling those on dice. A domino with a number of pips on both ends is called a double. A single domino with different numbers on each face is a combination domino. The value of a domino is determined by the total number of pips on both sides: a domino with 6 pips on one side and 5 on the other has a higher value than a single domino with 8 pips.
There are many games that can be played with dominoes, the most popular of which involve laying a row of tiles edge to edge, then hitting them so that they fall over in succession and leave an unbroken sequence of squares. The first player to play a tile must place it such that the number on one end matches the number on the other. The first player to finish a row wins the game.
The most common domino sets are the double-6, double-9, double-12, and double-15 sets. These are used for most standard domino games, although rules can be modified for a particular set. The smallest set is called a ten-peg domino, which can be used for positional games where each player takes turns placing a tile so that its end touches an adjacent edge of a previous piece and then playing a new piece in such a way that its edges meet to form the desired pattern.
All dominoes have a suit, and each suit has a value assigned to the individual dominoes. The suits are based on the arrangement of the dots or pips. Each domino in a suit has the same number of pips on both of its ends, making it easy to identify each tile when it’s in a line. The four suits—reel, diamond, heart, and spade—have different names in different countries and regions.
When it comes to stories, the scene dominoes must be well-placed if the domino effect is to work properly. The scenes should advance the story or move the hero closer to a goal, but they shouldn’t feel overly long or be too short, or readers may lose interest. Similarly, a story needs scene dominoes that are both effective and interesting in their own right, but they should not be too long (heavy on details or minutiae) nor too short (short of impact at key plot points).