When Hevesh, a domino artist, tips over one of her massive creations, the pieces move in unison, with a chain reaction that builds and builds until the last domino falls. It’s a great visual metaphor for how well-crafted stories build toward their climax. It’s also an important lesson for writers. In the world of fiction, every scene must fit together like a domino, or else the story crashes to a halt as readers lose interest in what is unfolding on the page.
A domino is a rectangular piece of wood or clay that features an arrangement of dots, or pips, on each face, and a blank side. The value of each domino is based on the number and location of the pips. A domino has a line in the middle to divide it visually into two squares, or ends. Each end is assigned a different value, or rank, ranging from six to none if the domino is blank.
Dominoes are commonly used to play positional games in which players place the dominoes edge to edge with one another. A player scores points by laying a domino from his hand to the exposed end of an already-played domino, such that the two matching ends touch (i.e., a “one’s-touch-one’s” or “two’s-touch-two’s”). When the exposed ends total any number divisible by five or three the player is awarded that number of points.
To lay a domino, the player selects a tile from his hand that matches the rank or value of the exposed end of an existing domino. He then places it on the table, or boneyard, and continues playing dominoes until he either wins by using all of his tiles or reaches a point at which no one can continue.
Each time Hevesh sets up her mind-blowing domino creations, she follows a variation of the engineering-design process that scientists use for projects ranging from building cars to designing rockets. First she considers the theme of the installation, or purpose. Then she brainstorms images or words that might best represent it. She then uses a form of the engineering-design process to plan how each component will be constructed. Then she begins to assemble her materials. Finally, she tests the setup to make sure it will work as intended.