Building a Great Story Using Dominoes, Lynchpins, and Butterflies

07 Apr

Do you want to make your fiction sing? Do you want to add subtlety and intrigue to your writing? Here are three ways to do just that.

1. The Butterfly Effect. Recently, I’ve been studying up on a phenomenon called the ‘Butterfly Effect‘. This is where a small change in one place can affect what happens somewhere else, even on the other side of the world. “The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.” (taken from Wikipedia ‘Butterfly Effect’) This has been used many times in writing, especially in time travel stories. However, you don’t need to have your characters going back and forth in time to use this technique. Simply know your story well enough to put a small change or decision made by one of your characters that has huge consequences later on. Note, the butterfly, by flapping its wings does not cause the hurricane. It is merely part of the conditions that lead up to it. For instance, you could have a character choose to go a new way to work one day and have that affect someone else in a big way. Because they weren’t in one place, it affected the traffic patterns in another place. You can take this in all kinds of directions in your fiction.

2. The Domino Effect. “The domino effect is a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby, which then will cause another similar change, and so on in linear sequence.” (taken from Wikipedia ‘Domino Effect’) Put a chain reaction in your story. One event or choice leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another. In this case, your ‘dominoes’ fall fairly quickly and relate much more closely than in the butterfly effect. Think chain of events.

3. The Lynchpin. This is” a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other rotating part from sliding off the axle it is riding on. The word “linchpin” is also used figuratively to mean “something [or someone] that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together.” (taken from Wikipedia ‘Linchpin‘) The Christmas story ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ is a terrific example of this. Why not try it in your own fiction writing?

As you craft your novels, have fun with tools like these to flesh out your story. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Above all, enjoy!


Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Author in the Trenches


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2 responses to “Building a Great Story Using Dominoes, Lynchpins, and Butterflies

  1. catsgeesonexaminer

    April 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Thank you my friend, I will give this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes. Karen

    • ChristinaLi

      April 7, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you, Karen. Please do let me know how it goes! 🙂


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