Using Dominos As a Metaphor for Storytelling

Dominos are one of the world’s oldest toys, used for a variety of games and tests of skill. They were first created in China in the 1300s, and the markings on them (known as pips) represent the results of throwing two six-sided dice. From domino competitions to setting up elaborate arrangements and then knocking them over, dominoes are a fascinating study in the power of small events leading to big consequences.

For Hevesh, who calls herself a “domino artist,” the concept is not just an abstract theory. She’s built an impressive career on her skills, creating impressively intricate domino setups for movies, TV shows, and even an album release party for pop star Katy Perry. Hevesh’s biggest creations take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but they always follow the laws of physics.

The same is true of stories, and in fact there are many ways in which writers can use the idea of domino as a metaphor for storytelling. While there are a lot of different elements to plotting a story, it all comes down to how each event affects the others and what happens as a result of those effects.

When writing a story, you need to keep the pace of the scenes moving forward. This means that you need a balance between high-action moments and softer scenes of reflection or inner processing. Too much navel-gazing will cause the pace to slow down, and too little will cause the reader to get bored or feel as if the action isn’t happening fast enough.

Another key to successful storytelling is timing. Like a domino construction, the timing of a scene must be precise if it’s going to be effective. This is especially important when it comes to character development, because the most compelling character developments are often the ones that happen as a result of a character’s reaction to other characters’ actions and to his or her own situation.

A good way to test the effectiveness of your timing is to play a game of domino with friends. In most games, the players draw seven dominoes from a set known as the stock or boneyard. Then they start a turn by calling out the highest double, such as “double-six.” If that domino is not in any of the hands, the next heaviest one is called: “six-five?”, then “six-four?”. Eventually, the player with the highest double leads. Each subsequent player then picks up the highest domino in their hand. The player with the most dominoes at the end of the game wins. Depending on the rules, the players may also accrue points for certain configurations or moves or for emptying their hand. This can make the game more competitive and challenging.