Writing Fiction With the Domino Effect


Domino is the term for a series of events that lead to much larger–and sometimes disastrous–consequences. The word is also used metaphorically to refer to cause and effect chains within systems such as global finance or politics. In fiction, the domino effect occurs when one action by a character results in a cascade of events that follow naturally. Writing a story with the domino effect in mind can help writers create engaging scenes that keep readers guessing at what will happen next.

Hevesh is a professional domino artist who makes intricate setups that take hours to build and can run into the thousands of pieces. Her work has landed her gigs creating domino sets for movies and television shows as well as an album launch for pop music star Katy Perry. When she is working on a large-scale installation, Hevesh spends months planning and testing each individual section of the set before putting it all together.

Each domino has a unique number of pips on one face and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips are usually inlaid or painted. In Europe, dominoes have traditionally been made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips. Modern sets are often made from polymers such as plastic or resin.

Most domino games involve laying tiles edge to edge so that their pips match, adding or subtracting the numbers as necessary. Most domino games can be played with a standard double-twelve or double-nine domino set, but some have been designed for larger or smaller sets. Each game has a specific goal, which can vary from winning by reaching the end of a line to scoring points.

Traditionally, domino games are played with hand-made tiles that are customarily arranged in rectangular or hexagonal blocks of equal size. Each player takes turns playing a tile, with the winner taking the remaining tiles and declaring “domino” before the last tile is placed. Some games are based on matching the total of a player’s pips; others are more complex and require a greater degree of strategy.

Players accrue points during the course of a game for certain configurations, moves, or emptying their hand. Various scoring games are played, including the popular bergen and muggins. Other games are adapted from card games, such as solitaire and trick-taking games. Some are even played to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

The word domino comes from the Latin dominum, meaning “cap” or “helmet.” An earlier sense of the word was a long hooded cloak worn by a priest over a surplice. The earliest use of the name in English was around 1750. The word and the game appeared in France shortly thereafter.

When the first domino falls, its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which is transmitted to the next domino, giving it the push it needs to fall as well. This transfer of energy continues from domino to domino, until all the tiles have fallen.