A domino is a small, rectangular tile bearing from one to six pips (or dots): 28 such tiles make up a complete set. Each domino is played by placing it edge-to-edge against another so that the pips on adjacent faces match, or “stitch up,” each other. A chain of such tiles thus develops that increases in length with each new play. The pips on dominoes are normally painted white or black. In the past, however, dominoes were made from a variety of natural materials: bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods such as ebony; metals such as brass; and ceramic clay.
Among the most popular domino games are block and scoring. Each player in turn plays a domino on the table positioning it so that one end of the domino chain matches the number shown on the top of that domino. The chain then develops a snake-like shape that is determined by the whim of the players and the limitations of the playing surface. If a player places a tile so that the other end of the chain matches either a double or a zero, the resulting dominoes are called a double-blank and are disallowed from further development.
Domino games may be played by two or more people, and the winner is the first to reach a certain number of points, or the first to complete a specified pattern of play. In some games, the total score is not revealed until the end of the game. A game of domino can last a long time, and the player who wins a particular round is declared the champion.
Some individuals create artistic displays with dominoes, creating curved lines that form pictures when they fall, grids that form patterns, or 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. These are generally created by using paper and arrows to map out the desired structure, allowing the user to calculate how many dominoes are needed for each track. A domino artist such as Hevesh says that the main physical phenomenon she relies on is gravity: After she has arranged her creation, all she needs to do is let the dominoes fall in accordance with the laws of physics.
Writing Tip for Today
Have you ever seen a domino builder at work, arranging hundreds or thousands of pieces in careful sequence, then gently tipping the first one just so that it triggers the whole cascade? The resulting effect is breathtaking, and it illustrates the way that a domino effect can influence the entire story of your novel.
Whether you plot your story on an outline or write by the seat of your pants, plotting your scene dominoes is an important step in establishing a clear narrative progression. If a scene doesn’t do anything to advance the story, or doesn’t have enough impact on the scenes ahead of it, consider weeding it out and replacing it with something more meaningful. Just like the domino effect, a story needs every scene to have impact and purpose.