Just saying:


The whole "this is story telling and not world building" discussion will eventually lead to this in the future, so why not start now?

I don't think this will impact on the user base of Worldbuilding but clear the line most of the community members here want to establish.

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    $\begingroup$ Didn't we have a discussion about this? (I can't seem to find it right now, though.) With the answer being basically "world development is fine, species development is probably part of world development, but character and plot development is off topic"? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ yes we had this... somewhere... cant remember either. But thats the point out of that discussion - the character development and how it happen is for Storytelling and blotbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @ Michael Kjörling Got it! meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/119/… $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ I just posted: discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/18007/… $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling - Also meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/92/… $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


(I'm mostly bouncing off of Chad's Answer here)

I think we're more on the same page than you think. It's just a matter of how far you want to push it.

Yes, discussing and working out storyline plots is an intrinsic part of "world building" — but when questions veer from specific, answerable questions about building alternative worlds into the realm of soliciting crowd-sourced plot lines, that's where you'll run into trouble. Let me run through a series of examples:

  • Q: Can you simply scale up ants into a race of "giant insects?" — ON TOPIC

Very little argument here. The mainstay of this site will be questions that tap into your knowledge of technology/physics/geography/history/sociology/ecology, etc, etc in a way that makes sure your fictional world is at least plausible.

  • Q: What conditions have to exist in a world to explain giant insects? — EXCELLENT

Yes, this question relates to plot building, but it's also good Q&A. It's somewhat akin to your question about credible ways a shapeshifter could gain/lose body mass. That's a fantastic question; love it. It taps into the expertise of physics and physiology and other areas in a way that is eminently "answerable" (even if the answer is somewhat theoretical and speculative). No problem there.

But here's where we run into trouble:

  • Q: What would the world be like if it were ruled by giant insects? — TOO BROAD

This is soliting ideas for a plot line. That's not good Q&A. We're getting into a place where anyone can propose a vague topic of discussion, and participants can advance the storyline by posting stuff others may or may not find interesting. Then voting goes to what? Most creative? Best effort? People's Favorite?

While plenty entertaining, that's not really what we do.

I would suggest building up a really strong base of canonical, useful content of answerable questions (I hate that phrase) before starting to solicit broad plot-line discussions and crowd-sourcing story ideas. If people are simply (in a sense) guessing what might might help the author specifically, more than likely it is simply too broad.

But I'm glad you brought this up

Let's be careful NOT to make the mear mention of "plot" or "storyline" the verboten buzzwords of this site. There is nothing inherently wrong with asking questions that involve "story telling" or "plot line" in their content. All too often I see these types of on- and off-topic discussions elicit a kneejerk reaction anytime someone dares phrase their question wrong. Here, that trigger point would be "How could my storyline account for {x}" — and that's not at all what I meant by Hypothetical situations and broad questions.

A brief note to answer the original question — The generic subject of "story telling and plot building" is really only on topic here when the question is predominantly about the subject of world building. But very generic questions about any author might ask about the subject of plot building are more the purview of our Writer's site. I talk more about why that is here: What would be on topic here?

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    $\begingroup$ I think you've given a great explanation. What circumstances could conspire to make X happen - good! What do I need to write, what happens next type questions - bad! $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ I just want to add "How would ______ change society" as another way-too-broad example. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 23:49

If we can get the blessing from Robert Cartaino, Grace Note, and/or their group at SE I think we should open up the topic to include storytelling and plot building.

It seems that this is either going to be something this site will either fight against its entire existance or something it can embrace and grow with. It will still be very important that questions meet the Good Subjective tests and the Real Question Tests but with in our realm I think opening up this site to include these topics will help provide a stronger community that will feel inclusive rather than trying to force it out.

The biggest reason is there is no clear line between story telling and world building. A perfect example is this question: Is there a credible way a shapeshifter could gain/lose body mass when changing forms? This question is not about world building because were there mass goes of one magical creature in your world is only needed to explain in the story telling and will have no real effect on the overall world unless the story requires it too. But the creature is part of the world and explaining the creatures features is part of building the world. So as you see the line is not as distinct as it really needs to be.

I see no benefit that the site gets by declaring these questions off topic. I understand that the increased scope could make it more difficult to moderate but at the same time I think it will ease the burden as well.

We have a duty to see that our site minimizes the overlap with other existing sites so

I propose the following guidelines:

The Following belong on RPG.SE:

  • Questions about technical details of an RPG world (like how the rules of the game apply)
  • Questions about interacting with players

Questions about the facts of an existing world belong on SciFi.SE

Technical questions about Writing and documentation Belong on Writers.SE

On-Topic Here:

  • Questions directly about worldbuilding
  • Questions about story telling as they relate to a fictional world or its elements
  • Questions about Plot building as they relate to elements of a world.
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good idea, we might even want to change the name of the site to something like World and Story Building. (Obviously that isn't the finally name, just a beta name). $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 5:18
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, although I don't think we need a name change. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know about the need for a name change (though I wouldn't necessarily be opposed), but world building and stories are so closely linked that I agree that we'd be fighting against it forever if we excluded stuff that would otherwise be in the proposed Storytelling and Plot Building SE. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ The argument which I think supports your argument the most is that of history. Each world clearly has a hiSTORY, creating that should be part of the world. So what's the difference between creating the history of a world and it's current story? Personally I think you've answered that question very well. $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ The community has very few disagreements on what should be on topic other than this. Eliminating the grey area by including story building would give us a more united community with which to fine tune other aspects of what is on topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ I think a name change to include storytelling opens up the scope more that I am proposing here and increases the perceived overlap with the other sites. I think that will increase conflict in the community rather than increase the usefulness of the site. The point of having a scope is the attract the right audience where the questions will be most useful for them. Increasing to include storytelling in the name is liable to attract questions that are going to not apply to worldbuilders, thus alienating a portion of the target audience. That is not a desired effect. $\endgroup$
    – Chad
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ I think Liath is spot-on here, and upvoted for that reason. You can't do worldbuilding without history, and history is about people doing stuff for reasons that seemed meaningful to them at the time. People who want help figuring out how a historical phenomenon might develop under given conditions are worldbuilding in all but the most parochial possible sense. $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 1:50

"Help me figure out my plot/story/character motivations" is a bad fit for Stack Exchange, as Robert Cartaino explained here about the "Storytelling and blot buidling" SE proposal (emphasis mine):

Yes, writer's block and plot development are certainly common problems for writers, but the site you are proposing is not aimed at the techniques for overcoming these issues (see our Writers' site). This proposal is designed to be a content-generation engine — a contest of sorts, with the voting going towards the "people's choice" for their favorite or most creative entry.

That's not really what we do.

(Also, note that that proposal has gained all of 5 followers, the same number it had when I first saw the link here on meta yesterday.)

The scope for Writers includes the following relevant explanation:

Asking to brainstorm ideas tailor-made for your particular story is off-topic; that’s too specific to your own work. But identifying a general scenario which naturally presents plotting difficulties is on-topic.

Those same reasons apply here. Brainstorming of the sort being proposed here (and in that Area 51 proposal) should be off-topic everywhere on Stack Exchange. It's well-suited for writing groups, forum sites, and discussion with your friends over beer, but it's terrible Q&A.

As Robert notes, the more "procedural" parts of plot-generation are a different matter. These are already on-topic on Writers; that doesn't mean they can't be on-topic anywhere else (site overlap is fine), but know that there's a home for them now. If we make plot/story/character-building on-topic here, we are going to struggle to keep it contained (process good, brainstorming bad). I suspect it will also overwhelm the worldbuilding part of the site fairly quickly (people create more stories than worlds).

We have a viable site now. Once we get some experience with it, if we find that the line between world and story is more porous than it now appears, we can carefully broaden the scope later. Given a baseline that already works (we're not too narrow now), it's better to gradually expand (if warranted) than to expand now and take scope away later. People get upset when they find out they've invested in a site that now deems their contributions off-topic or otherwise unwelcome, after all.


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