A small rectangular wood or plastic block that is marked on one face with an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice. The word domino is also used to describe a game played with such blocks, as well as a system of rules for arranging them into lines and scoring points.
Lily Hevesh started playing with dominoes as a child, setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking them over. Now she’s a professional domino artist, creating stunning domino installations for movies, TV shows, and events—including a Katy Perry album launch. Some of her projects involve hundreds or even thousands of dominoes, arranged in careful sequence and toppling with the nudge of only one. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers.
Domino is also a term for a chain reaction, especially in fiction: One action leads to many others that have dramatic—sometimes catastrophic—consequences. But it’s not just about putting down a series of actions in a row; it’s also about how those actions affect each other, which is called a plot. It’s a process of discovery that can be complicated—but a little planning and an understanding of how the laws of physics work can make it easier to create a story with interesting, unpredictable results.
Whether you compose your manuscript off the cuff or take the time to outline your story before writing, the plotting process often comes down to the same question: What happens next? This is why many writers turn to the domino effect, a literary device that describes how one action causes another to happen.
When you write a domino effect, your characters’ actions should set off an interesting chain of events that makes the reader wonder what will happen next. But it’s important to keep in mind that the domino effect is only effective if your characters act consistently with their established personalities and motivations. Otherwise, your readers may become confused or frustrated.
The English and French words for domino are both derived from the Latin word domini, meaning “heavy.” Originally, it referred to a long hooded robe worn with an eye mask at a masquerade or carnival. It was later used to refer to the playing piece and eventually to the whole garment that combined the robe with the mask. Today, the word domino is most commonly associated with a game that involves drawing tiles and then laying them on a flat surface in a line to form an arrangement. The first player to cover all the exposed ends with dots wins. This activity is an excellent way to help students understand addition. For example, a teacher might show a domino with 4 on one end and 2 on the other and ask them to name an addition equation that represents the relationship between the total number of dots and the numbers on each end. This task can also be used to demonstrate Mathematical Practice Standard 8.