We have a rule that says that is a question is more centered on a story than on a world, then there should be a Vote To Close for being off-topic.

For example: How to safely check if you are immortal?


This kind of question can possibly be saved by using the "In a world..." defense.


"In a world" is voice-over artist Don LaFontaine's gift/curse to movie trailers. While an utter cliché today, it became a cliché because it works. In a movie trailer, you — as the author of the trailer — have the audience's attention for a few seconds. In those few seconds, you have to explain the premise of story without making the audience become bored, or making it feel contrived. So how do you do that?

Don found that using "In a world..." allows you explain an entire setting in one sentence, while at the same time placing the protagonist(s) in that world. "In a world..." works as a glue between a setting (which is that which we are primarily concerned with at Worldbuilding SE) and a story (which is what the offending question was actually concerned with).

Point for discussion

A question such as the one exemplified above I feel could be saved by re-writing as such. The original phrasing goes from...

My character is told they are immortal. How should they test that?

...to become...

In a world where people are told they are immortal... how would they go about testing that?


Should we add the "In a world.." defense to the Too Story-based: How To Fix-section and — if applicable to a Too Broad question — tell the user to fix the question as such?

  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean add it to the ‘how to fix’ section? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 6 '17 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Hm, yes, that sounds about right. See edit. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 6 '17 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ If applicable to a too broad question? Did you mean story based? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 6 '17 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Ah, but of course. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 6 '17 at 11:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question, used in the example, doesn't need saving. The test for immortality as sought is asking about what strategy(-ies) should be employed. This makes it definitely a worldbuilding element. The real problem is not enough WBers are capable of close reading text. Too easy to assume that the narrative voice, as used here, makes this question about instory actions. Story-based closure is consistently misunderstood and misapplied. The "in a world" defense is often there implicitly, I guess having it up in neon wouldn't help either. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 7 '17 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ It's good that you've raised this issue. This may be the best approach. After all, getting people to read carefully and thoughtfully can be a thankless task. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 7 '17 at 9:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Review of “story based” policy $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 18 '17 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot I cannot see that is even close to being a duplicate of that question. Did you use the wrong link? $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 18 '17 at 12:48

I’d say yes, but with the caveat that we have to advise caution: It’s possible that the two questions could become quite different.

To illustrate: ‘My character is told he is immortal...’ can only have an answer specific to the character and the story, and this is story based.

‘In a world where people are told they are immortal...’ can elicit answers about how a world would react to these people, test for them humanely and/or safely in a larger scale way, and may inadvertantly answer the question about the specific character as part of the answer about a world.

So it seems to be a sensible way to rescue a question, but it could easily end up becoming a different and/or too broad question instead of too story based.

  • $\begingroup$ One thing it does do is generalize it. The problem with story/character based is that "I don't know what you're character would do, I don't know anything about them." While this suggestion generalizes it to the point where it applies to anyone, and so applies to me, so I can just say what I would do, without caring what any specific other person would do, which is probably what the person asking the question is probably trying to get anyway. I don't think I would know how to answer this question, so I'd be thankful for all suggestions, and then pick the one that makes the most sense to me. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Oct 6 '17 at 12:07
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 : I’d answer the character question with ‘nail gun to the toe’ and the world question with ‘standardised tests administered by doctors’; the latter answer wouldn’t necessarily help in a character situation. That’s the bit that we need to take care on. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 6 '17 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Depending on how the question is reworded it's easy to remove that second possibility, say by saying that it's a very rare and discredited by science, meaning that doctors wouldn't test for it for instance. And just because that is the answer you might come up with doesn't mean that you or someone else might not come up with something even better, given the right flash of inspiration.Given that the question as it currently stands is at 16 answers shows that there are people with ideas on how to handle it, and they probably aren't all "nail gun to the toe". $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Oct 6 '17 at 17:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273: I’m not saying it can’t be, I’m saying that if we’re advising people to fix their questions in this way we also need to advise them to make sure the new ‘in a world where’ question will still get character driven, specific answers. Your ‘properly worded’ example is how that should be done, whereas an improperly worded version could get only world-scale answers, which we should take care to avoid. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 6 '17 at 18:10

If it's rewritten, probably.

If the question is asking how their hero will get out of a situation it's a textbook case of being story based. Those are exactly the kind of questions that that close reason was created to prevent. Until they edit the question it is clearly off topic for this site and should be put on hold until it is edited.

Once it's edited it should be judged on the merits of the edited text and only if it's a good fit for this site should it be reopened.


I would argue that this should not be necessary. If adding "In this world" fixes the "problem", then there isn't actually a problem. Too story-based should not be like Too Broad or Unclear What You're Asking, where the asker needs to fix the question. It should be used when the problem is that something is clearly not an aspect of a world. For example, "I had a brilliant idea for a world and a character, but what do I do with it?" The only way to fix that is to ask a different question.

Too often it seems that people see story details and close as Too Story-based. Less of that, and questions wouldn't need an "In this world" defense.


Accepting anything with "in my world" prefix would make this site another Yahoo Answers, only with tags instead of categories. We should definitely never do that - one Yahoo Answers is enough on the Internet and this site is useful because it is different.

Answers about testing immortality in a whole world would be much different. It might be considered safe test to use euthanasia on someone who is entitled to it, for example, and thus give some answer to general public. And if question is carefully scoped to avoid answers that would use a fact that it is a whole world, it is not a worldbuilding, end of story.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I fail to see the argument here. First I fail to see why Yahoo Answers is such a supposedly deplorable model. Second I think that snobbishness of the sort ""Ew... we are so much better than that" serves as a suitable standard to follow. And third I fail to see why doing it this way would make WB SE turn into YA. You will have to argue that a lot better than just stating "This would lead to that and that would be bad", without any arguments for why this would lead to that, nor for why it would be bad. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 18 '17 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK I didn't say it's "deplorate". I said it is there and if it is what you need, go there. Arguments why allowing any question to be asked would lead to site that allows any question to be asked are pointless. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 18 '17 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ Well I have not made the argument that any and all otherwise invalid questions can be remedied with the "In a world" re-write, so your your argument here is responding to a straw man. Do I really need to spell out "In the specific case where a TSB question can effectively be rewritten as "In a world...", is the grounds for not closing it?". Oh well, now I have... so would you like to edit your answer? $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 18 '17 at 12:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelK in this specific case "can effectively be rewritten" is false. See second paragraph of my answer. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 18 '17 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ I referred to the immortality thread only as a possible example where such a re-write might work. But by question regards the general case where TSB questions can be rewritten . $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 18 '17 at 12:51

You must log in to answer this question.

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