I've seen (and occasionally had) questions about what might drive a character or story element in a certain direction.

As in I have a world/character that starts out at A, and I want them to end up at B, but I just can't think of any logical series of events that would work.

An example of this that came up in chat recently:
A person is going through school for their dream job, and has a high likelihood of getting all the way through.
Then for some reason they drop out, and start a lesser job.
It should be an internal reason, and doesn't have anything to do with family, money, or ethical reasons.
What are some reasons that a person would do that?
My suggestion in chat was that it was medical of some kind, but that's the best I could do.

Obviously this would be way out of scope for WB, but still could be very useful if there was a way to make it happen. One way is to get people brainstorming ideas in Chat, which is good, but some kind of sandbox style meta thread where people that really want to can go and help other users see the hole in their thinking that is keeping them from moving forward would occasionally be helpful, and something that we could direct that kind of question toward when they get posted on the main site.

I'd love to hear other peoples thoughts on this.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't use it, so i need to ask: what's wrong with the chat? People sometimes comment that new users should ask off-topic questions there $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 23 '18 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ How would such a Sandbox be scoped? If it's open to basically everything it's basically just a "go there to ignore all rules we have here", which seems quite odd. And if it's a certain different scope it seems to me that a different site would be more appropriate that focuses on this sort of thing (I think in chat there were some discussions about a CharacterBuilding.SE or something like that). Making this a sub-site of its own with special rules that's hidden somewhere on the Meta site seems counterproductive to me. Telling people how we intend the Sandbox to be used can be difficult already. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 23 '18 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Nothing wrong with chat, except that not everyone uses it, stuff can get lost in the other discussions that go on, and some questions are more complicated and so chat isn't the best fit. Also you have to have 20 rep, and Meta only needs 1. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 23 '18 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus The CharacterBuilding.SE proposal was shot down by SE staff, otherwise that would be a good idea. Chat does mostly fit, but not always. I don't think it should be scoped really. It would not be for gaining rep, and of course no one has to help with anything. It would just be for people who have a little extra time to donate brainstorming raw ideas. I know there has been once or twice that I've been legitimately blocked on a story because I couldn't get past a certain point, but once I explained my problem someone else was able to see and fix the cause of the problem. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 23 '18 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ I see. Also the chat lacks a good reward system (votes) to motivate people. I also see why you don't just pick some other random place on the net (like reddit). I believe there is a lot of potential here. The same skills are needed for solving WB and story issues, at least the kind you've described. I have one thing though: comments are pretty short. Some of those issues will need a lot of characters. I suspect this could get messy $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 24 '18 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 "the chat lacks a good reward system (votes) to motivate people" If you have a problem, then isn't getting the problem solved a motivation? If not, then nobody would use Google or Wikipedia or Wolfram Alpha because, as useful as those are for their niches, none of them involve a concept like Stack Exchange's reputation. "same skills are needed for solving WB and story issues" Likely true at least to an extent, but the bigger issue is probably: How realistic is it that other people will face the same or even similar situations in the future? Does it add to a corpus of knowledge? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 24 '18 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I'm not saying there isn't another way to get motivated, but I believe the upvote-thing is a really good way to make people contribute more. If we are talking about getting as many people involved as possible (an issue he stated with the chat was that not many people are in there), rewards and a good feedback system are a great way to accomplish that. Positive feedback is one of the strongest motivators and a simple upvote can do that without much effort. I cannot answer the 2nd part of the question. I don't know why it has to be more or less than WB issues though $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 24 '18 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 One way to motivate people is through the sheer fun of brainstorming. I always love it when people bring their problems like this into chat, and coming up with new ideas is just plain fun. Take the history of the imperial flush for instance. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 24 '18 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling It would not add to the corpus of knowledge, which is why I agree it's a bad fit for a SE site as a whole. But, that wouldn't have to be it's purpose. One way that it could be contained and kept from growing out of control is by deleting all the brainstorming problems after a certain number of days. That would also be one way to actually abide by the letter of the law... "Well, we have this thread called brainstorming, and people keep posting off topic posts to it, so we delete them after a week." $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 24 '18 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Another brainstorming example, and yes, chat does work well for this, but not every problem has to have this kind of dialog. The ability for a comment thread to be turned into a chat would actually be a really useful feature. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 24 '18 at 14:04

Meta is not for "all the stuff that's off topic on Main".

It is for "the discussions about how we do stuff on Main".

Big difference.

To me, what you propose sounds like a great fit for the chat room; it likely takes a good amount of back and forth, and it has little or no lasting value to anyone else (what are the odds that someone else will want to go from the same A to the same B?).

And honestly, it's not that hard to get to 20 rep, especially not on an active site like Worldbuilding. A dozen accepted edits and you're there with rep to spare, at 2 rep per accepted edit. It's not hard to find posts even on the front page that can benefit from some editing, even just for formatting. Or ask a question about the world itself; even if you've already pretty much decided on an aspect, it's not unreasonable that you might get input on things you hadn't considered. If the question is decent, you'll zoom past 20 rep in virtually no time around these parts. Or get to 200 rep on some site, and you'll get the 100 rep association bonus on every site, which gets you past almost all new user limitations. (The one I sometimes find frustrating which the association bonus doesn't get you past, even with a diamond elsewhere, is the need for 125 rep to vote down.)

  • $\begingroup$ Except for MSE, where you get enough rep with the association bonus to vote down, because there the privilege is unlocked at 100 rep. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 23 '18 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't trying to suggest that 'Meta is for "all the stuff that's off topic on Main"'. But we already have the sandbox, which is technically for questions that are potentially off topic for main, with the hope of fixing them up. Chat is a really good way to do this, but not always the best way depending on what else is happening, who is online, and how complicated the buildup is. I'm active in chat a lot, and have helped quite a few with questions like this. It works fine, but it's not always the best way. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 23 '18 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 I don't think your comparison to the sandbox works here. The sandbox is not intended for potentially off-topic questions, but for the refining of on-topic questions. The drafts might be unprecise, too broad, too opinion-based, but if they are blatantly off-topic then they are not refinable. $\endgroup$ – ArtificialSoul Aug 24 '18 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed about editing. Whenever I see an edit in the queue, I almost always accept it. Unless the edit looks like it alters the sense or substance of the query. Easy reputation points! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 24 '18 at 20:56

To add to Michael's answer.

First, I agree with him. If the intent is to make a question on topic, the yeah use the sandbox. If it is truly character/plot related and that isn't going to change it doesn't belong on meta.

That isn't to say that meta couldn't facilitate such a thing, just that we don't do that.

My recommended solution:

A public chat room: We could create a public chatroom specifically for this purpose. We already have Factory Floor for general conversations and Universe Factory for the blog. There is no reason that we couldn't add a third room for character and plot based conversations.

I am not sure if the effort would take off and reach that critical mass point that makes it useful and regularly populated, but we could certainly try it out.

It also makes sense to advertise the chatroom on RPG.SE and Writing.SE. This will help keep the room populated and it seems an obvious crossover point for all three groups.

General chat would be the obvious fall back, but I agree the place is a little random and may not always be in a mood to facilitate such conversation.

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    $\begingroup$ There is also story-go-round for collaborative storytelling, the laboratory for hard-science discussions and there was the open-close-discussions room. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 23 '18 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Cross-posting (by which I take it that you mean posting the same question on multiple sites in the network) is generally strongly discouraged. (At least Unix & Linux also has that as a specific close reason.) Writing is about the craft of writing; questions similar to OP's example would potentially fall under both "too broad", "requests to critique or rephrase" existing text, and "what to write about", any of which would be enough to make it off topic there. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 24 '18 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not too familiar with Role-playing Games, but I imagine such a question wouldn't be particularly welcome there either; they seem to me to be more about game mechanics, rules and the interpersonal aspects of running or participating in a game. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 24 '18 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling That's the thing. Brainstorming really is a bad fit for the SE network as a whole, and I can't see there ever being a SE site that it works for. That does not mean that it's not a very important thing, and having some method to address it would be a good thing. It might violate the letter of the law, but I think there is a way to do it that does not violate the spirit of the law. Maybe it is a dedicated chat room, or a special meta thread, or something else. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Aug 24 '18 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Probably a poor choice of wording. But read some context people! :) I simply meant advertising the chat room on those two sites because of the obvious cross-over possibilities. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 24 '18 at 15:28

Another solution:

Because brainstorming doesn't fit the SE model, which as I understand it, is basically "focused question -- focused answer", it may very well be that SE is not the best solution for this particular kind of query.

Stack Exchange (even the WB forum) is not the end-all be-all of worldbuilding communities out there! I understand all about building a brand a building a community, but the reality is that there are many places a geopoet can (and should!) go for for help apart from any one community.

An issue like this, character development or story / narrative evolution, could perhaps be addressed in a more traditional open question / long discussion forum. MythicScribes, focusing as it does on fantasy writing, might be a better option than SE for these kinds of open ended queries. A more general worldbuilding forum like CBB might also be a place to seek for advice.

A chatroom might be nice to bounce some quick ideas around. But even that format May not the best for the more detailed back and forth a writer would require to hammer out details of a story.


A specialised chat is probably the best option available within the SE format for this kind of work, putting it on meta is definitely inappropriate; meta is where we should be discussing the workings of the main, policy, priorities, appropriate topics, proposed events, etc... not where we should be getting deliberately off-topic. I'd certainly be interested in seeing if I could contribute to such a chat but it's not material that has any place in the meta. As a note some of the proposed material does have a place over on the Writing page, though mostly still off-topic, so a chat over there may already exist and/or be more successful given the different group focus.


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