The Basics of Domino

Domino is the Latin word for “little domino” and, as such, refers to the small wood or plastic blocks that are stacked on end in long lines to form a game. When one domino in a line is tipped over, it causes the next one to tip and so on until the entire row of dominoes falls in a cascade. The term also is used to describe any sequence of events that has a similar effect.

Domino games are played all over the world. The first set of Western dominoes was probably imported to Britain in the late 18th century from France. Since then, the popularity of this simple block-and-draw game has grown rapidly.

The most basic set has 28 dominoes, each with a square top and a rectangular bottom. Each of these has either a white or black side. The pips (or dots) on each side represent numbers from zero to six; each has its own unique value. The most common type of domino is the double-six, whose two ends are labeled with values from zero to six. A domino with six pips is said to have a higher rank or weight than one with only three pips.

Each player takes turns playing a domino onto the table positioning it so that its matching end touches an existing domino on the right or left. Each time a domino is played, the existing chain develops into a snake-line pattern according to the whims of the players and limitations of the table. When a domino is played so that its end touches two matching ones, the players may be able to form a new, longer chain. The players who have the fewest number of pips at the end of a domino chain win the game.

In addition to the standard 28-piece domino sets, many other types of specialized and elaborately crafted sets exist. These are usually made from natural materials such as bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl or MOP), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony. They are often painted with contrasting colors or inlaid with contrasting coloured or black pips.

MOP and ivory dominoes are more expensive than polymer or wooden ones, but they have a richer, more substantial feel to them. Some people collect these sets and use them for decorative purposes.

Whether you’re a pantser who composes your manuscript off the cuff or a plotter who makes a detailed outline of each scene ahead of time, thinking about dominoes can help you improve your writing. For example, if your story has scenes that don’t seem to be related to those that come before them or fail to generate the desired emotional response in the reader, you might try thinking of them as dominoes that aren’t yet tipped over. A little nudge is all it takes to tip the domino that will cause the others to fall. Likewise, in your novel, you can nudge the events and scenes to make them fit together more logically and create a more compelling story.