The Domino Effect

We’ve all seen those domino constructions where the smallest piece sets off a beautiful cascade of rhythmic motion. The term domino can also be used to describe any action that has the potential to influence other actions in a similar fashion. The “domino effect” can be applied to characters in a novel, to the events in a story or news event, even to business decisions that can impact a company as a whole.

The simplest domino is a square block with one or more dots on each face (the number of dots determines its value). Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes them easier to stack, but can be laid flat if the game is played on a soft surface. They are normally made of wood or plastic, but can be made from any material. Dominoes can be used in a variety of games and are often grouped by their values. A standard set consists of 28 pieces, called double-sixes. Larger sets are sometimes used to play positionsal games. In these games, each player places a domino edge to edge against another in a position where adjacent dominos show either matching numbers (e.g., 5 to 5) or form some other value such as a total or a pattern.

As each domino is placed, its potential energy is converted to kinetic energy — the energy of motion. That energy is transmitted to the next domino and, if it’s a good fit, it pushes it over. The energy then continues to transmit from domino to domino, until the entire chain is toppled.

When Hevesh creates her mind-blowing domino setups, she follows a sort of engineering-design process. She considers the theme or purpose of an installation, brainstorms images or words that might be relevant, and then draws out a domino design. This design can be as simple or elaborate as you want – straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, 3D structures like towers and pyramids.

Then she plans out her domino tracks, determining which dominoes will go where and how they will be positioned to make the best possible setup. This part of the process is especially important if you’re planning to do a domino show, where builders compete for the most complex and imaginative domino reaction or effect before a live audience.

Hevesh’s meticulous planning helps her avoid the domino effect that can occur when a domino is pushed out of its place by a force outside its control. Similarly, writers need to think through the consequences of their characters’ actions so that the reader can see the logic behind them. Otherwise, the domino cascade can fall apart, and readers may lose interest in a story or even stop reading altogether.