A domino is a flat thumb-sized rectangular block used to play games in which one side bears numbers while the other is blank. A traditional domino set consists of 28 pieces, with each piece bearing anywhere from one to six dots (also known as pips) in a symmetrical pattern. These are matched together and stood up to form lines and angular structures. When a single domino is knocked over, it triggers a chain reaction, with each subsequent domino falling in turn until the entire arrangement collapses.
Domino art can be as simple or elaborate as the artist wants, with straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, and even 3D structures like towers and pyramids. To create such designs, the artist first draws a plan on paper, which shows how each domino will fall. A domino designer can make as many drawings as necessary to perfect their masterpiece, including arrows to show the way each domino will move. Once the design is complete, they can start putting the pieces together.
Physicist Stephen Morris explains that when you stand a domino upright, it stores potential energy, based on its position and the force of gravity pulling down on it. Once that domino falls, much of this potential energy is converted into kinetic energy, causing the next domino to fall, and then the next, until the whole thing topples in a cascade.
As Hevesh explains, this is the physical phenomenon behind her incredible domino creations. She’s made projects involving 300,000 dominoes and helped set the Guinness record for most dominoes in a circular pattern: 76,017. The most complex of her arrangements take several nail-biting minutes to fall. But it’s not just the physics of gravitation that allows her to accomplish such feats—other forces are at work as well, including inertia and friction.
Hevesh and other domino artists rely on all of these forces to create their stunning displays. But it’s a specific aspect of inertia that’s especially crucial. “When you have thousands of dominoes set up in a careful sequence, it’s very hard to get them to fall,” she says. “You need a little push, just enough to make them over.”
When you think of your novel’s scenes in terms of the Domino Effect—where one scene causes the next—it can help you identify any that aren’t working. For example, if your character’s actions are contradictory to societal norms, your audience might not understand or accept them, leaving the scene without much impact on the rest of the story. The solution is to give readers enough motivation or reason to allow your characters to deviate from societal expectations. Otherwise, your Domino Effect won’t work.