How to Maximize the Power of Cause and Effect in Your Stories

Do you incorporate domino effect in your stories?

If you have, you share something with the bulk of humankind. The majority of us feel that way at some point.

In this post, youll find out about the domino effect in story, and the four significant ways to mess it up.

Have you ever had days when life seems like a broken-down Rube Goldberg machine? Cobbled together from little bits of cast-off scrap, limping along, and missing out on the connections that bring a gratifying outcome?

An individuals life consists of an enormous jumbled mass of cause and result occasions, on a scale so big that connections are seldom apparent or traceable. By contrast, a characters story is an appropriate subset of such events in which the causal relationships appear. Sometimes obvious, and in some cases subtle, but constantly present if you wish to create a story that resonates with readers.

Whats It All About?

If your story comes throughout more like a malfunctioning Goldberg device than a well-oiled mechanism with all parts in order, check out on to discover out how the power of cause and impact can help.

At heart, we all look for a sense of significance, making every effort to understand the events in our lives. Readers gravitate toward stories that meet that need.

Building Your Writers Skill Set

I like to bear in mind this essential quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

In fiction, the causes often stem from the background of the characters, while the effects are discovered in the plot advancements that emerge from those background triggers.

Stories are developed on cause and effect. Causes typically come from characters backgrounds. Their impacts are the plot developments that result.

As a writer, you need to be mindful of these relationships in your story as a whole, in the continuity of your scenes, and in the line by line actions.

Shallow men believe in luck or in situation. Strong guys believe in cause and impact.

The same can be stated for authors. Making domino effect an essential part of your authors ability will go a long method toward making sure every scene has effect. This implies it will contribute to the outcome of the story overall.

Think in Terms of Stimulus and Response

In his book Scene and Structure, Jack M. Bickham writes, “Stimulus and action are domino effect made more instant and particular.” He provides these guidelines for utilizing this technique to enhance clarity and trustworthiness in your writing:

When response to stimulus is not logical on the surface, you should ordinarily explain it.

Your reader will be confused, and a confused reader is a frustrated reader with little inspiration for sticking with your story.
You lose credibility. A reader who cant think in your story will stop checking out.

Stimulus should be external. That is, action or dialogue, something that might be witnessed if the transaction were on a phase.
Action needs to also be external in the very same way.
For every single stimulus, you need to show a reaction.
For each preferred action, you must offer a stimulus.
When, reaction usually should follow stimulus at.

If you neglect following through with these guidelines, two bad things stand to occur.

4 Ways to Mess It Up

Bickham goes on to go over common methods authors screw up the stimulus-response deal:

1. Stimulus without reaction

You can show a stimulus and after that show no external response (or perhaps one that doesnt make or fit sense).

Given, this is a simplistic example, but I hope it carried the point. Information are included in a story on a need-to-know basis.

Lets say your character, Mike, opens the court house door for Jennifer. With Mikes action of holding the door, youve set up a stimulus

The reader will anticipate a reaction from Jennifer. She may thank him, tell him to drop dead, or simply pass through, but if you dont close the stimulus-response cycle, it will niggle at the reader on some level, compromising your story.

Heres an example.

If its important to call attention to Mike holding the door for Jennifer, its equally crucial to include her reaction

You might believe the reader would assume an action on Jennifers part, but Bickham specifies that a high portion of readers do not connect those dots.

Be on the safe side and close the loop. Keep in mind, were mentioning things that take place mostly on a subconscious level.

The reader wont know whats pestering them, just that something is.

2. Action without stimulus.

As authors, we understand and see a lot more than the reader, and in some cases we forget to clue the reader in. When checked out a story from a start author that described a spectator at a baseball video game jumping up and running from the stands, I. That was the reaction, however there was no stimulus revealed.

You can reveal a character response when no reliable stimulus for it has actually been revealed.

The problem? The reader has to understand about the anthill in order to understand the action. It seems obvious, however this type of mistake is fairly typical.

When I inquired about it, the author described the man had actioned in an anthill.

3. Excessive time between stimulus and reaction.

Stimulus: When Sarah stepped onto the trail, a big black snake wriggled throughout her boot.

Action: Three hours later, she shouted.

You can put so much story time between stimulus and response that the logical relationship between the two occasions is no longer evident.

It creates a space for readers to get lost in if your scene does not follow a well-timed chain of cause and effect.

4. Reaction, then stimulus?

Getting It

Better: A clap of thunder shook the ground, making Scott dive.

You can get it backwards.

Dont anguish! Bickham revealed us how writers frequently fall brief in this location, however he also provides guidelines for finding and fixing issues in the flow of your cause and effect.

Example: Scott jumped after a clap of thunder shook the ground.

Every stimulus needs an action

Examine your work on a line by line level. Have you closed the loop on every stimulus-response cycle? Do the actions affect what comes next?

Remember Chekhovs gun– if in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall. In the following act, it must be fired.

Read over what youve composed. Do the outcomes of each scene set the stage for the next?

Youre informing the story in reverse if you have to discuss why something simply occurred.

Ensure every stimulus you set up gets an action; that every cause you put into play generates a matching result. And put it in the ideal order.

Every response requires a stimulus

Make sure every action is preceded by a proper stimulus; that every impact has a speeding up cause.

Readers demand more in return for the time and effort they take into a story than practical conclusions of the Scooby Doo variety. You owe your readers correctly established rewards, and this needs threading the cause into your story in a credible way, before you bring about the result.

Get this right, and your readers will cruise through your story with great fulfillment.

Whats in it for You?

It might seem like a lot of effort, however like anything else, it gets much easier with practice. Bickham supplied an excellent reason for refining this skill:

Beyond that, you make your reader happy, and a pleased reader will try to find more of your work.

When you get proficient at this as an author, you can make nearly anything take place in your story; all you need to do is determine what is to trigger it.

Better yet, theyll inform theyre pals that they ought to read it, too!

Identify the domino effect relationships in a piece of composing youre working on. Then, take fifteen minutes to evaluate and make certain youve closed the loops, providing a stimulus for every single reaction, and following up every cause with its reward effect.

Produce a character (maybe a retired karate teacher?) if you do not have a present piece going and think about some cause and impact relationships that might drive their story. Compose them down.

When youre completed, publish your practice in the comments area.


Have you dealt with getting the domino effect story elements best in your own stories? Tell us about it in the remarks section listed below.

And if you post, please leave feedback for your fellow writers!

Any day where she can send out readers to the edge of their seats, prickling with suspense and chewing their fingernails to the nub, is a good day for Joslyn. Pick up her most current thriller,
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The reader has to understand about the anthill in order to make sense of the reaction.

I as soon as checked out a story from a beginning writer that described a viewer at a baseball video game jumping up and running from the stands. That was the response, however there was no stimulus shown.

By contrast, a characters story is a pertinent subset of such events in which the causal relationships are obvious. In some cases obvious, and in some cases subtle, but constantly present if you desire to create a story that resonates with readers.

Joslyn Chase

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