The Domino Effect

If you’ve ever played with dominoes, you know that these little rectangular blocks of wood or clay can be arranged to form intricate patterns and create many games. When a domino is tipped over, it triggers the next domino in line to tip over, and so on until all the pieces have fallen. This chain reaction is also the basis of the phrase “domino effect,” which describes a sequence of events that begins with one small action and has larger—and often unexpected—consequences.

Domino is also the name of a popular family game that involves placing tiles on end in long lines, and then knocking them over by pushing them over one another. There are numerous variations of the game, but most of them fall into two categories: blocking games and scoring games. The tiles have different values, usually represented by spots or pips that range from zero to six. A traditional set of dominoes contains 28 unique tiles, with each tile occupying one of four suits: the suit of sixes, the suit of threes, the suit of nines and the suit of blanks (or 0s).

The word domino is derived from the Latin verb “dominare,” meaning “to dominate.” In English, it first appeared in the late 1700s, but it may have been borrowed from French, where it had an even earlier sense, denoting a long hooded cloak worn by a priest over his surplice. It may also have been used to describe a playing piece, as the ebony blacks and ivory whites of a domino set reminded some people of a priest’s cape.

Hevesh is a master of creating domino installations, and she follows her own version of the engineering-design process when working on these projects. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of the installation and brainstorms images or words that might help her convey it. She then makes test versions of each section and films them in slow motion to make sure they work correctly. Once she has all the sections filmed, she puts them together. She builds the biggest 3-D sections first, then adds flat arrangements and finally lines of dominoes that connect all the different sections together.

Whether you compose your manuscript off the cuff or follow a detailed outline, it is important to consider how each part of your novel could function as a domino. Good dominoes are tasks that contribute to a larger goal, and when you pick the right ones, they will have a positive impact on your future writing. So the next time you are trying to create a plot, think of each step in the process as a domino—and then choose the best one for the job. By thinking in terms of the domino effect, you can ensure that your book has the right momentum to take it to success.