The synopsis of what makes a question Too Story Based is as follows:

Asking about plot elements such as the actions of characters, rather than about the world in which your story takes place, is off-topic on Worldbuilding

However, I've noticed a lot of questions closed as "Too Story Based" that in my opinion don't qualify for closure. Examples include:

My understanding is that the purpose of each question is to serve the story, so a lot of people VTC. For example, the purpose of the first question is to end up with a ship small enough for 8 characters. However, the goal of nearly every aspect of a fictional world is to serve the story - either by directly furthering the plot, or by indirectly expanding the setting and themes. That doesn't mean asking how to make the world is story-based.

In my opinion, the subject of each question is about building a fictional world, and that's what matters. All of these questions are about concrete elements such as spaceships (1st question), magic (2nd), and religion (3rd). Sure, some questions may appear to be framed around "this is what I need to achieve for my plot" but that doesn't mean the process of achieving it isn't the on-topic construction of a fictional world.

How does the community stand on the application of the Story-Based VTC? Do people generally agree that people are voting to close this class of valid questions too liberally? Or are these closures justified?

EDIT: I don't think this is a duplicate of this question because this post seeks specific discussion about a particular type of question in the context of specific recent examples.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "government policy / action (3rd)" That is a reading of the question not present in the actual post. The question literally asked for how to do it as a writer, not what in-world changes are needed. Even if we take the second reading, then the actions would vary based on circumstances. The question is simply too broad for "what are the actions and policies a government needs to do to end the zombie crisis in progress and which also applies to a robot uprising" Even limiting to just one disaster is still broad without any details - what government, what timeframe, how bad is it, etc. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2020 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ The "how to do it as a writer" interpretation isn't present in the post either because that question lacks details or clarity. I chose to give the question the benefit of the doubt in terms of being on-topic, because writing was not specified. I personally did vote to close the question because it's broad and vague. It isn't a good question. That doesn't mean it's story based. What concerns me is that "too story based" was seen as a valid alternative and continues to be misapplied to other posts. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 20, 2020 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Since it's framed as how to make this for the readers, I take that as a writing question. I commented as much there, too. I can't remember what I actually voted for, though - "not about worldbuilding" fits, since it seems to me to be a writing quertion. "story based" also fits to an extent. Slightly muddier but it also covers stuff like "what choices/steps would/should X take". There is also "requires focus". Ultimately, I think it needed to be closed and it was. Multiple reasons can apply, it's just that the closure system doesn't show all. Perhaps it would help if it did. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2020 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ I hear your reasoning; that makes sense. I'll remove that question from the list of examples. Let me know if you have insights on the other posts. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 20, 2020 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ #1 - not quite sure. It's slightly unclear or perhaps needs to be reworded. At the core it's OK - "I want a 8 person ship". It can be framed to better emphasise "I want to make this design consistent for my world". It might have been unclear if asking for a story reason. Can't really say. I'm leaving it aside as on the fence - wouldn't have VTC and won't VTR as I'm not confident enough. #3 I am OK with. VTRed it. It's not even the first question of it's kind - the author has a history of questions about this concept and they are generally well received. This one oddly wasn't. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2020 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ As for #2...already commented there but to me it's story-based. The core of the question is "I've a busy character, how would he find the time to talk to other characters?" and I can't see this as anything other than "how do I get plot to happen?". You can throw world mechanics at the problem but it really isn't a problem with how the world is constructed and how it works. A character can be busy despite nothing about the world forcing them to. And busy people still find time to do stuff. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 20, 2020 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Catalog of Question Types $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2020 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Far too many questions are closed as too story-based when it is obvious the VTCers do not understand either plot or what is a fictional character. Nor how to distinguish between a fictional world or what about a world is needed to construct a story. As a result this VTC is applied both too liberally and incorrectly. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Feb 25, 2020 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan I disagree that the catalog is a duplicate. It's tangentially related but I'm seeking a more in-depth discussion of specific questions here. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 25, 2020 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


Overview of the Problem

There has been quite a lively discussion on the particular query about the spaceship and whether the limitations placed on the spacecraft are "world based" or "story based". I think the discussion applies generally to the other queries cited, and also to questions here in Worldbuilding generally.

Let us remind ourselves what WB.SE's mission is: Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings. We impose upon our members certain limitations: to ask queries about specific issues with worldbuilding and we ask them to refrain from asking anything not directly related to worldbuilding.

Let us remind ourselves what worldbuilding is, within the scope of our community: World building includes geography, culture and creatures for the world, not to mention magic and planetary physics, in short, everything from the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build.

Specifically to the point, Worldbuilding is not for questions relating to plot and character building (as they) are out of scope for the site.

The basic problem with these queries: Narrative Necessity

The first query boils down to Narrative Necessity. The author has imposed some arbitrary stricture on a plot element (in this case, the spacecraft) and is now asking us to justify this plot element. Ultimately, the answer to why the spacecraft can only carry eight people is "because the author determined that the spacecraft can only carry eight people". The author could have similarly chosen a different arbitrary number like 6 or 11 1/2.

I hold that this query is very clearly "story based" for the following reason: the stricture is imposed by the story's author / querent and not by any force of nature or other system or rules by which the universe operates. There is no natural law at play within the context of the query that can allow for the variant reading of "world based". Furthermore, the title & the body of the question itself have nothing to do with the nature of the fictional world or the systems that make it operational. The topic and focus relate solely to matters of narrative necessity.

Conclusion: we don't justify plot element questions. This is a classic, *story based" query.

The second question also boils down to Narrative Necessity. The author has imposed some arbitrary stricture on a plot element (in this case, the number of magical healers & their personalities) and is now asking us to justify the situation. Ultimately, the answer is "she is your character and she has free time because of the personality qualities you gave her." Again, if the stricture is not present, then the narrative potential is lost.

Conclusion: we don't justify characters' personalities, predispositions or likely actions. This is another classic "story based" query.

The third question is problematic for other reasons, which I won't go into here.

In a nutshell

The long and short of it is this: whenever a query's essential focus is on any element of a story that itself is not directly related to worldbuilding, such as a plot element or narrative element or character element we're now dealing with a story based query. When an OP frames her query in terms like "in my story" or "for a story I'm writing" or the like this is a sure sign we're not dealing with the nature of the world itself, its subsystems, natural laws, or any element of worldbuilding proper, but rather we're dealing with narrative threads within that world.

Even though we all love stories, our focus here in WB.SE is to help people make fictional worlds: systems, functionality, nature of reality, evolution of forms, etc. Specific to writers, we help them build the foundations upon which their stories are written; but we have chosen not to help them write their stories.


I'd argue that the first two queries needed to be closed without question. They are clearly story based and not world based. They can not really be salvaged as written as they have nothing to do with the nature or structure of the world itself.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild Mod
    Mar 9, 2020 at 17:50

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