The word domino is derived from Latin domini, meaning “heavy” or “rule.” A domino is a small, rectangular game piece that’s used to play various games. It has a flat surface that’s divided into two parts, each bearing from one to six pips (or dots). A domino set usually contains 28 such pieces. The pips are arranged in a circle or square, making them easy to identify and match up with other pieces. People often line up dominoes to form angular patterns or other designs. They can also be flipped over and knocked down to create an impressive display.
If you’ve ever watched a domino artist in action, you may have seen them create mind-blowing structures that look as though they’re going to fall over at any moment. In fact, the only thing stopping them is the laws of physics. To see what we’re talking about, check out this video of a domino artist who sets up thousands of dominoes.
This amazing creation is the work of an artist named Hevesh, who has created some of the largest domino setups in history. Hevesh’s projects take hours to complete, and some of the pieces are dozens of feet in length. But despite the complexity of her masterpieces, Hevesh is able to make them all tumble according to simple physics principles.
When she starts a project, Hevesh first considers the theme or purpose of the design. Then she brainstorms images or words that can help her convey those ideas. Once she’s finished, she begins to lay down the dominoes in place. Most of these are plastic, but she’s worked on projects involving as many as 300,000 dominoes.
Once the first domino is placed, it has inertia — the tendency to remain motionless if no outside forces act on it. But once she gives it a slight nudge, this inertia converts into kinetic energy, or the energy of movement. This energy travels from the domino to the next, which then pushes on the rest of the chain. And so on.
The same principle can be applied to writing a story. If you’re a “pantser” and don’t use tools like outlines or Scrivener to plot out your novel ahead of time, you might find yourself with scenes that are at the wrong angle or don’t impact the scene ahead of them in any meaningful way. To fix this, you can try the domino effect: Write a scene that’s important, but doesn’t necessarily advance your story in any obvious way. Then, if you can think of the right moment to flip that scene over, it will naturally influence what comes next.