How Dominoes Can Make Your Story More Compelling

A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block, normally double-sided with an arrangement of spots resembling those on a die. The domino’s identity-bearing face is divided, by a line or ridge, into two squares, each marked with an arrangement of dots, or “pips,” which determine the value of each piece—a double-six domino has six pips; a double-zero is blank. The pieces are arranged in a stack, with one end of the stack touching each other—along with the edge of the stack—to form a chain that continues to grow as other players play their tiles into the chain. A player may only play a tile that touches either the top or bottom of this stack, and it is not possible to continue playing until every end of the chain has been played, or until a player has no more tiles left in his hand.

Dominoes are popular for games that involve scoring points by placing the pieces in a row, line or column and then knocking down all of the rest using a finger or other object. The first person to complete a row, column or diagonal is the winner. Dominoes are also used as a tool for teaching counting and addition, as well as for artistic purposes such as creating designs on canvasses or in sandpaper.

Whether you write a novel off the cuff or meticulously plan out your plot, understanding how to use the domino effect can help make your story more compelling. The principle is simple: A change to one behavior can trigger a series of reactions that cause related behaviors to shift in the same direction. For example, if you reduce your sedentary time, you might find that you also consume less fat. Those changes could lead to long-term health benefits.

The term domino is also used as a metaphor to describe the effect of an action on subsequent events, particularly in politics or business. In the business context, this phrase is most often applied to third-party delivery services that compete with established restaurants. These services often gain market share quickly and can depress a restaurant’s revenue growth.

Lily Hevesh, who creates domino art for movies, TV shows and even Katy Perry, learned to set up dominoes at age 9. Her grandmother gave her the classic 28-pack and she enjoyed setting them up in straight or curved lines, or into grids that formed pictures when they fell. She later started posting videos of her work on YouTube.

Physicist Stephen Morris explains that when you stand a domino upright, it stores energy in the form of potential energy. Once you start to knock it over, that energy is converted to kinetic energy that causes the next domino to fall and so on. This is why dominoes are so fun to watch. Hevesh has amassed more than 2 million subscribers to her YouTube channel, and her domino setups can be extremely elaborate. Stacks of curved and angled dominoes can form complex patterns, and some artists even use them to create 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.