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The Domino Effect in Writing


A domino is a small, thumb-sized rectangular block with one face bearing from one to six pips resembling those on dice. The other face is blank or patterned identically. There are 28 such blocks in a complete set of dominoes, which can be used for several types of games. Dominoes can be stacked on end in long lines, and when the first domino is tipped over, it causes the rest of the line to topple over as well. The resulting chain reaction can create very complex designs. A more common use of dominoes is in playing layout games, where players place tiles on the table in rows and columns, and then try to make their opponents score points by blocking them.

Dominoes are sometimes used for art, and a popular style of artwork is to draw lines on paper with arrows showing how the pieces should fall. Then, a person can cut out the lines and assemble them into a 3D or 2D design. Some people also make sculptural domino structures, like towers and pyramids. Others simply make intricate patterns with the dominoes.

For the most part, though, the most exciting dominoes are those that are tipped over by someone else. This is why the term “domino effect” has become widely used, referring to a chain reaction that starts with one action and then results in much greater–and often more catastrophic–consequences.

The same principle can be applied to writing, as many writers have discovered when composing their manuscripts. Whether you write off the cuff or follow a strict outline, plotting your book ultimately comes down to the same question: What happens next? Thinking about how to incorporate the domino effect in your writing will help you craft a novel that keeps readers engaged.

Creating such elaborate domino designs requires an understanding of both the physical laws that govern the behavior of the dominoes and the mathematical principles that apply to the placement of the pieces. But the key ingredient is simple: gravity. It is the force that pulls a knocked-over domino toward the ground, which is why Hevesh’s biggest installations take several nail-biting minutes to fully collapse.

Hevesh plans each domino art project carefully, testing each section before moving on to the next. She has even worked on projects involving hundreds of thousands of dominoes, including one that claimed the Guinness World Record for the most dominoes in a circular arrangement: 76,017.

She is quick to point out that the reason her domino art works is not magic or a trick; it is the result of careful planning and the power of gravity. She has even created a website to encourage other people to try their hand at this kind of creative domino art. The site includes instructions for creating different tracks, from straight lines and curved lines to grids that form pictures when they fall to stacked walls and even 3D structures. In addition, the website contains a link to a free online domino tracker that allows users to plan their own tracks.