How Dominoes Can Help Us Become Better Writers


When the first domino falls, much like a neuron firing, it sets off a chain reaction that continues until all the pieces are gone. In this article we’ll take a look at the mechanics of domino and see what makes them so fascinating—and how the idea of domino can help us become better writers.

Dominoes are small rectangular blocks of wood or other material that are marked on one side with an arrangement of spots, called pips, and on the other side with blank space or another identically patterned surface. The pips represent the domino’s value, which is determined by the number of pips on the two matching ends of the piece. The values are used to determine the placement of a domino on the line of play and the order in which the players must play their tiles.

Most common dominoes have a double-six layout with twenty-four squares of pips. However, extended sets are available with greater numbers of pips and can be found in the shapes of hearts, diamonds, or octagons. In addition to standard wooden and plastic dominoes, these tiles can also be made from other materials such as stone (e.g., marble, granite, or soapstone); other types of wood such as ebony or mahogany; metals; ceramic clay; and even frosted glass.

While the rules of domino vary from game to game, all are based on the same principle. After a player has drawn the number of tiles permitted in a given game, he or she places them in a straight or curved line across a table. The pattern is called the layout, string, or line of play. A tile played to a double must be placed so that its two matching ends are touching, or adjacent if not touching, and it must sit squarely on the edge of the domino it is playing to.

Many games are scored by counting the pips remaining in a losing player’s hand at the end of a hand or the game and adding them to the winner’s score. Other games have a different method of scoring. A common way to score a game is by counting the number of pips remaining on all the dominoes in a lost player’s hand, including those left behind from an outplayed tile.

When creating a domino installation, Hevesh begins by considering the theme or purpose she wants to convey. Next she brainstorms images or words that might represent those ideas. Then she creates a sketch of the design and tests it by putting together smaller 3-D sections before assembling the larger parts into the final installation. She often films her work in slow motion so she can make precise corrections to any part that isn’t working. In addition to her artistic talent, Hevesh’s success as a domino artist has been due to her careful preparation. She always tests the entire design before she puts it into place and keeps a record of all her test results.