I am reading this question as a clear, right-now example of a point that annoys me.

The answer is not the problem, but the first comment in the answer, which accuses the question to be OT.

Please: I would like the stuff in the Help Center regarding "Elements of Plot" be fixed since it seems to be not so clear for many people in this site.

As I see it, almost every time -with almost no exception- when we ask about a topic, we ask it to make our plot more consistent, directly or not.

Look at the core question, given the background:

Is there any practical way to implement this (that doesn't involve launching critical evidence into orbit)?

He is clearly asking about a specific aspect of the technology or protocol, given the background of his already-made plot. They talk about government, terrorists, and bla bla bla. That's not the focus in the discussion, but a specific technical matter.

So, please, fix the point in the help center since this is not the first time I see people not being capable of understanding what that point means, when everything we write here is somehow related to the plot.


Actually, delete the point since it's not useful, as it is already implied by the character building and individual actions points. Plots are made of beginning, middle (we say knot in spanish countries) and ending, and are entirely based on characters' decisions, whatever the nature of the characters is. But as it is right now, it makes people think there's something more in wha makes a plot. Surrounding elements, not being the character background (bulding) or decisions (actions) are just part of the world they belong to. So, as I see it, the Elements of Plot item should be removed.

However, my original idea is to discuss reformulating that point.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a proposal for how to fix it? Even a starting point for how to fix it can be a great way to spark debate on the issue, because this is a difficult matter to boil down to just a few words in a single bullet point. May I recommend reviewing the history of how most of that page came to be and perhaps Patricia C. Wrede's thoughts on what plot is? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Still thinking about it. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2016 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ I edited it, based on the article you provided. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2016 at 21:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We're planning to have a big scope discussion next week once the election is over that will try and clarify things like this. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 12, 2016 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


I've been thinking about this since the whole "off topic" and "idea generation" discussions came up.

This may not be popular, but I think that we shouldn't be so fast to close questions for those reasons.
As this question points out, the question might be mostly fine and just need to be rewritten slightly, or maybe just reread to help understanding. Not everyone uses english as a first language after all.

But even if it is off topic, or about a plot, who cares? Bad questions don't hurt anyone, and won't get that much attention anyway, and someone might still come up with a good answer to help the questioner out.
And sometimes plot elements give the biggest opportunities for creativity.

I hear you saying

but those questions are to subjective and don't give us any way to tell a good answer from a bad answer!

It doesn't matter. A good answer is one you like, a bad answer is one that makes no sense in the context of the question, and the questioner is the one that has the final say in what answer helped them the most.

Even now I could ask a great "on topic" science-based question, overlook all the good answers with math and choose the one that says "rockets go zoom" as the correct answer.

While the site is called worldbuilding, that doesn't mean that every question has to literally be about a world, or we'd only see geology questions.

Most questions on this site aren't about worlds, but instead are about very small parts of worlds.
Which are generally indistinguishable from plot elements when viewed a certain way.

Likewise, almost every question I've read was asking a question, hoping someone could come up with, or maybe generate, an idea to answer the question.
But despite almost every question being a idea generating question, not that many get closed for it. Seems weird.

One proposal I can see would be a tag that could be applied to these questions as a sort of warning.

This question is . May lead to . Reader beware!

I don't know about everyone, and some people might be more sensitive than others, but personally I won't get upset if I accidentally take a few minutes reading an off-topic question.

On a serious note, the one (and only) positive reason to close questions that are bad, IMHO, is to give the questioner a clear indicator that they need to fix it.

A lot of times, unless it's a drive-by questioning, this can be accomplished by providing constructive comments.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Off topic questions are not necessarily poorly written and can be very popular. More than a few of them have hit the HNQ list. This draws attention and new users who are likely to ask similarly off topic questions. Off topic questions won't hurt anyone, but indifference toward them may not be good for the health of the site. $\endgroup$
    – Avernium
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ A world is not only the physically environment, but also the social components of the environment, as it is the case of the question. A world is everything that is not the individual actions, and the individual character building. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2016 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ e.g. I describe a game about the modern eastern islamic society. A girl wants to escape (decision, actions) from that world since she was always pressed by being woman in that society (character building). Describing, however, the islamic society as a chauvinist one (based on religious texts) is part of the world even when it is not a rock, a column, a house, a cloud, animal, plant, ... $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2016 at 23:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .