A domino is a tile marked with pips (spots or numbers) on each of its two sides. The number of pips determines the value of the domino, and it is referred to as its rank or weight. Each domino has a line in the middle to divide it visually into two equal squares, called ends. The end with the most pips is referred to as the leading end, while the one with fewer pips is known as the trailing end. A domino is usually double sided, although some are single sided.

Dominoes are used for a variety of games, from simple matching to strategic blocking and scoring. They can be set up in straight or curved lines and, by simply tipping the first domino ever so slightly, they can fall in a beautiful cascade of rhythmic movement. This is a classic example of the domino effect, a term that describes any sequence of events that start with a small trigger and continue to build momentum.

In writing, the domino effect can also refer to any scene in a story that naturally impacts the next scene or scenes. The idea is that if a character discovers one piece of information or develops an argument, that discovery or argument may naturally lead to another scene in the story that explains, illustrates or supports it. Then that new scene might further influence the next scene, and so on.

This domino effect is most visible in a game like Draw, in which players try to place their tiles to form as large of a cross as possible. Each player begins with seven tiles, and a turn is complete when all four of a person’s tiles touch each other on a vertical or horizontal plane.

The domino is the most well-known of all the game pieces, but it is just one of many possible shapes and setups for a set of dominoes. Other possibilities include the fox and lamb, matador, chicken foot and Mexican train. Regardless of the type of domino played, most games require emptying one’s hand while blocking opponents’ play. Some games, such as bergen and muggins, assign points to each domino in the losing player’s hand.

Lily Hevesh has been playing with dominoes since she was 9 years old, when her grandparents gave her a 28-piece set. Now, at 20, she is a professional domino artist who creates spectacular domino creations for movies, TV shows and even music albums. She tests each section of an installation before putting it together, and she films the process in slow motion to check that everything works correctly. This process gives her the flexibility to make precise adjustments if necessary. She’s also used this strategy when writing her own stories: she creates test scenes to ensure that each element of the plot flows smoothly. For writers who don’t use outlines or software like Scrivener to help them plot their novels, Hevesh recommends using scene cards to weed out any scenes that aren’t serving the story.