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The Basics of Domino


When Lily Hevesh was 9 years old, her grandparents gave her a classic 28-pack of dominoes. She loved setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking them, watching the whole line fall. Today, Hevesh is a professional domino artist who has created stunning setups for movies, TV shows and events, including a Katy Perry album launch. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, has more than 2 million subscribers. Her largest installations use more than 300,000 dominoes and take several nail-biting minutes to fall. Her work explores the beauty of geometry and the laws of physics, using only the forces of gravity to bring them down.

Domino is a family of games played with a set of rectangular tiles that are marked with one or more arranged patterns of spots (also called pips) on both sides. The number of dots on each side of a domino tile determines its value, which may range from blank or no dots to six. The sum of the values on each face of a domino is sometimes referred to as its rank or weight. The higher the rank, the more valuable a domino is.

Most dominoes are made of bone, ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting white or black pips inlay or paint. More recently, domino sets have been manufactured from a wide variety of natural and man-made materials: stone (eg, marble, granite or soapstone); other types of wood (eg, walnut, ash or oak); metals (eg, brass or pewter); ceramic clay; and glass and crystal. Some sets are sold in modular forms that can be assembled to create different playing surfaces and structures, such as tables or arches.

The most basic domino game is a simple two-player game that uses a double-six set. The 28 tiles are shuffled and then placed in a pile, known as the stock or boneyard, and each player draws seven dominoes into their hand. Players then alternate in picking a domino from the boneyard, positioning it so that one end of the chain matches up with the domino in their hand. The first player to play a domino in this manner places it on the table and begins a chain of dominoes that gradually increases in length.

In addition to determining the direction of a chain, the rank and weight of a domino also affect its ability to block opponents from placing their tiles on the chain. For this reason, most players try to have the highest ranking domino in their hand when they are playing.

Whether you are writing off the cuff or following a meticulous outline, plotting a story is fundamentally the same process of domino effect. You have to consider not only what a character will do, but also why he or she will do it. This is especially important in scenes that run counter to societal norms, because you have to give readers the logic to allow them to accept your hero’s actions or at least keep liking him.