A domino is a small rectangular wood or plastic block that has one side bearing an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice and the other blank or identically patterned. The spots on a domino are called “pips” and the total number of pips is the rank or weight of the domino (the more pips, the higher the rank). Dominoes are normally double-sided to facilitate stacking, with a line or ridge in the middle that divides it visually into two squares. The pips are marked with numbers that range from six to none, and the value of each end is the sum of the pips.
In addition to being used in games, dominoes can be set up in a variety of ways to create art, such as straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids. Many people, including professional artists, create these works using polymer dominoes that are durable and easy to work with. Others use more traditional materials, such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood like ebony, with contrasting black or white pips. While these sets are more difficult to create with, they offer a greater level of detail and often feel more substantial than polymer dominoes.
Dominoes can also be used to illustrate how a sequence of events can affect a larger system. This is particularly true for social or political systems, where events that occur in a single country can have an impact on the entire world. For example, the political crisis in the Balkans in the early 1990s caused economic turmoil throughout Europe and ultimately spawned the Kosovo War in 1999.
The term domino is also used figuratively to mean a set of events that will have a major impact on an individual or community. This is a common metaphor for large-scale events such as elections, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks.
When writers use the domino image to describe a story, they mean that the scenes in the plot must be properly spaced and timed for the overall effect to be achieved. For example, if the heroine finds a key clue during a scene but then the next scene doesn’t raise the tension or bring the hero closer to a resolution, that scene is off pace and the story won’t flow properly.
This is a crucial lesson for writers, especially those who use outlines or Scrivener to help them plot their stories ahead of time. If a story is rushed, or the scenes are too long or too short, it won’t move the story forward at the right speed, and readers may lose interest. The same is true for domino constructions and in stories: the pieces must be evenly spaced or else the whole structure will collapse.