The Domino Effect in Fiction

Domino has long been a popular game that teaches children counting and sorting, as well as hand-eye coordination. But the little squares of wood or plastic can also inspire artistic creations that are nothing short of breathtaking. Domino art can include straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when the dominoes fall, or even 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. Artists create these designs by positioning dominoes on end and then tripping them to cause them to fall one after the other.

Hevesh started collecting dominoes and creating her own setups at 9 years old when she was given a traditional 28-piece set by her grandparents. She soon started posting videos of her creations on YouTube, and today her channel has more than 2 million subscribers. In addition to domino art, Hevesh has worked on spectacular sets for movies and TV shows.

The word “domino” can also refer to a sequence of events that lead to greater–and sometimes catastrophic–consequences, like the infamous Domino Effect. In fiction, the domino effect is used to describe a single action that causes a series of reactions, each leading to its own chain reaction that ultimately culminates in a dramatic ending. Whether you write your novel off the cuff or follow a meticulous outline, considering the impact of each action can help you keep your story compelling.

Although a number of different games can be played with dominoes, most involve emptying one’s hand while blocking opponents’ play, or scoring by counting the pips (markings on a tile) in the winning players’ hands. Some of these are blocker games such as bergen and muggins, while others are scoring games such as tiddley winks or Mexican train. Many of these games are adaptations of card games, and were once popular in areas with religious proscriptions against playing cards.

A domino can be made from a variety of materials, but the classic European-style sets are traditionally constructed of silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips. These sets are typically larger and more durable than their polymer-based counterparts. Other materials for dominoes have included stone (especially marble, granite, or soapstone); metals (like brass or pewter); ceramic clay; and even frosted glass or crystal.

The traditional 32-piece domino set, as opposed to the smaller 20-piece sets commonly found in stores, represents all 21 possible results of two thrown dice (2d6). Other types of dominoes exist, however, including Chinese sets that use duplicates and separate the pips into suits. The Chinese sets also feature a darker wood than European ones and may have some of the pips inlaid with silver.