The Art of Domino

Domino is a table game that involves placing dominoes edge-to-edge with each other in such a way that their open ends are identical or form a specific total. The result is a chain of dominoes that can grow in length or shape depending on the game being played.

There are many different games involving domino and they can be as simple or complex as a player wishes. Some are played in teams, and others are single-player games. Some games involve scoring points, and others are simply a matter of skill and luck. There are even games that use dominoes to create intricate patterns, like curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.

The word “domino” itself appears to have been invented around the mid-18th century, although the game itself is much older. It surfaced in Italy before spreading to Austria, southern Germany, and France. The name of the game, however, did not appear until later; it probably grew out of an earlier sense of the term, one that referred to a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at carnival season or masquerades. The word may have also been influenced by the black domino pieces that were once made with ebony faces to contrast with the priest’s white surplice.

Domino sets are usually made of ivory, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), bone, or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them. More recently, sets have been made of other natural materials such as marble or granite; metals (e.g., brass or pewter); or a variety of ceramic clays. Unlike plastic dominoes, these sets have a more substantial feel and are generally a little more expensive.

Despite being small enough to be manageable in a confined workshop, dominoes are detailed enough to demand respect for the craftsman who made them. A well-made domino set is a work of art, and the process of making them is as important as the finished product. Each domino must be perfectly positioned and aligned to allow for the most efficient path of play, and the overall effect must be elegant and compelling.

When a domino is knocked over, the whole chain that led to it must be carefully re-positioned so that it continues smoothly. Hevesh takes great care in this process, making test tiles and then arranging them flat to ensure that the resulting pattern will be seamless when it is finally put into place. She then builds up the largest 3-D sections first, before adding the smaller arranged sections.

As a writer, Hevesh uses the same principle when she plots a novel. Whether composing a manuscript off the cuff or taking more time with a careful outline, plotting a story ultimately comes down to one question: What will happen next? Thinking of every plot beat in your book as a domino will help you answer that question in an exciting and satisfying way.