In this week’s video, Daphne du Maurier’s The Flight of the Falcon teaches us how to make even the most insignificant scenes act as dominoes that affect all the scenes to follow.
Video Transcription: Analogies to stories abound, but arguably one of the most accurate is the comparison to a row of dominoes. If you imagine your story as a line of dominoes and each individual scene as a single domino, then it becomes apparent that each scene is going to have to directly influence the scene to follow—if we expect our line of dominoes to fall in perfect synchronicity. If you have even just one scene standing out of its place in line with the other dominos, the chain reaction will fail—and the story will stagger to a standstill.
So how do we make sure each scene matters?
In The Flight of the Falcon, one of Daphne Du Maurier’s little-known works, she exhibits her mastery of the domino effect. Every scene in her story, no matter how seemingly innocuous or disconnected from the main plot, has a purpose in the story. She never wastes an opportunity. Walk-on characters, casual dialogue, random bits of description—they all tie into the web she’s weaving around her readers. This is especially exemplified in a scene late in the book in which the main character, during a ramble on the beach, stops to talk to nun who is minding several children. Their conversation is the noncommittal, relatively impersonal exchange we would expect from two strangers. A few pages later, the nun leaves the scene, her part in the book complete.
At first glance, the nun’s scene might appear to be a useless intrusion into the plot, a filler while the main character awaits his appointment, or an attempt to introduce some local color into the description. But as the story enters the climax, we realize that Du Maurier made even this simple “filler” do double duty as a domino that would influence all the scenes to follow. If we can follow her example in mastering this technique, it will streamline our writing so that our stories can power ahead at full steam, unimpeded by dead weight.
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Story by K.M. Weiland