Writing Fiction Like Dominoes

Domino is a term used to describe any action that sets in motion an event or series of events that eventually have much greater and sometimes catastrophic consequences. This concept is well-illustrated by the classic game of domino, where one small nudge causes a string of individual dominoes to fall over and create a beautiful cascade of rhythmic motion. When it comes to writing fiction, thinking of the story as a set of dominoes can be a helpful exercise for both plotting and improving the overall quality of your work.

Dominoes are flat thumb-sized rectangular blocks that feature two parts, each bearing anywhere from one to six pips (or dots) or blanks. A set contains 28 of these tiles, which can be arranged in long lines and angular patterns to form a variety of games. Dominoes can be played for either scoring or blocking. The first player to score points does so by laying his or her dominoes down in straight or angular lines, with matching ends (one’s touch one’s, two’s touch two’s, and so on). The exposed pips of each piece are then counted and, if the sum is a multiple of five, a player scores that number of points.

Then, a player can block opponents by placing his or her own dominoes over theirs. This is done by identifying the open ends of each tile, which can be accomplished by comparing the exposed pips to those on other dominoes in the same line. If the player can match an opposing piece to a “domino” in this way, the domino is “locked” and blocking is complete.

Hevesh uses a version of the engineering-design process to develop her mind-blowing domino setups. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of an installation, then brainstorms images or words that can be incorporated into it. She also considers the structure and placement of each domino to determine how it will interact with its surroundings.

When Hevesh finally knocks over her creation, thousands of dominoes stand just where she placed them. But when she gives them a little nudge, their potential energy converts to kinetic energy, the energy of motion. That energy then pushes on the next domino and so on, in a predictable and beautiful chain reaction.