Writing Tip for Today: Dominos


Domino is a game in which players arrange a row of domino tiles on a flat surface, then set them up to block one another or score points. Each tile has an arrangement of dots, similar to those on a die, with some blank or identically patterned areas. When a player places a tile, its top edge must rest squarely against an adjacent domino and its bottom edge must slip against the surface beneath. Dominoes can be placed in straight lines or in curved formations. They can also be stacked to create 3-D structures such as towers and pyramids.

Dominoes have a simple yet elegant design that makes them popular among woodworking enthusiasts and casual gamers alike. They are small enough to manage in a limited workshop but detailed enough to demand respect for the craftsman. For example, the way in which a tile is played to a double must be done carefully in order for the chain to develop its characteristic snake-line shape.

When a domino sets in place, it has an invisible potential energy that builds until the first nudge. Once that domino is pushed past its tipping point, it falls and releases that energy as it falls. That energy is then used to push the next domino over and on down the line, creating a rhythmic, cascading effect. Domino builders compete at domino shows, lining up hundreds or thousands of tiles in careful sequence and then setting them up to fall with the nudge of only one.

Writing Tip for Today

Like dominoes, a good story needs to be arranged in a way that ensures smooth action and a satisfying climax. Whether you write off the cuff or follow an outline, plotting a novel comes down to answering a simple question: What happens next? Considering the “domino effect” can help you answer that question in a captivating way.

Dominos are traditionally made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted. In recent times, dominoes have been made of other natural materials such as stone (e.g., marble or granite); other types of wood (e.g., birch, maple, and redwood); metals such as brass or pewter; ceramic clay; and glass or crystal. These alternate materials offer a more novel look and feel, with some sets having the top half thickness in mother of pearl or ivory and the lower part in ebony.

In some games, dominoes are ‘bought’ from the stock by the winner of the previous game. The winner then plays the first tile, which must be a double unless the rules of the game state that the heaviest single starts play. In other games, a player may draw more than the number of tiles permitted to be bought, and the total pips counted on those dominoes is added to the winner’s score. However, if a player draws a double but is not able to play it, the game ends in a tie.