The Domino Effect

We’ve all seen those beautiful domino constructions where the first piece, when flicked ever so slightly, leads to the rest falling in a rhythmic cascade. That’s what inspired the term domino effect, meaning any action that causes a series of similar events. And whether you use outlines or the popular writing software, Scrivener, to plot your story, keeping in mind the principles of domino effect can help you keep your scenes in balance.

Domino (or dominoes, also spelled as dominoe or dominos) is a small rectangular block used as gaming object. The face of each domino is either blank or marked by dots resembling those on dice; 28 such pieces form a complete set. Dominoes may be stacked in straight or curved lines, or in angular patterns to form larger structures such as mazes. Some sets also feature a central circle that can be used to identify which sides of the tiles have matching values. A player wins a game of dominoes by putting down all of his or her tiles before the opponent does.

A domino may be used to play any of a number of games, the most common being blocking and scoring games. The latter involves attaching a tile to one end of those already played so that the sum of the numbers on the ends is divisible by five or three. A point is scored each time this happens; for example, four on one end and five on the other makes nine, which is divisible by three, resulting in three points.

While the modern sense of domino appeared around 1750, the word has roots in both English and French. In English, it was probably borrowed from French, where it originally denoted a long, hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. The French term may be linked to the ebony blacks and ivory faces of early domino pieces, which reminded some observers of a priest’s surplice and hood.

Those who are adept at the game can make complex and beautiful patterns with dominoes, and some even use them to stage elaborate shows. For example, the artist Lily Hevesh, who has more than 2 million YouTube subscribers, creates spectacular domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including an album launch for Katy Perry. She says that dominoes are a great way to teach kids the value of perseverance and to encourage them to follow their passions. She’s also learned that “it takes a lot of trial and error to build a domino layout, especially if you want it to be really good.” But she thinks that if people learn how to set up dominoes properly, they can be just as talented with their imaginations as they are with physical tools. “People can create amazing things with their minds that they wouldn’t have thought possible.” See more of Lily Hevesh’s domino art on her YouTube channel.