I recently asked this question. The controversial topic of the question aside (yes, I get that it's ; I very explicitly said to keep it clinical), I was rather surprised to find that it was closed for being too story based. Huh? I could understand it if people went for Opinion-Based, but too story based?

I reviewed my question to see what is wrong, and the only possible reason I could find was that I had written it from an in-universe perspective. I don't understand why that would be reason enough to close it though, since that writing style is fairly common here in WB.SE.

Here's some examples:

Would the people who VTC'd this care to explain their reasoning?

  • $\begingroup$ Those questions both look too story based to me. The Cthulhu question was asked almost 5 years ago when this site was just starting out. As we have defined and clarified our policies we have generally left old questions alone until such time as they get brought to our attention. Now that they've been brought up I think the right thing to do is to VTC the question, to prevent more confusion. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 26, 2020 at 2:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please consider using examples from the last year. Your second example was from 5 years ago. The rules for the site have evolved since then and it's incredibly impractical to go back and close those thousands of questions. In short, the distant past is not a precedent to challenge the rules of today. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 26, 2020 at 5:45

2 Answers 2


I didn't vote to close, but I agree with it

IMO, asking for the "best way" solution to anything is always story-based because the "best way" is always a function of the circumstances of the story. If you had provided all those story details and then asked what options were available, the question would likely be open.

Unfortunately, most people who ask "best way" questions are not having trouble developing their world (which we help with), they're suffering from writer's block (which we do not help with). The Help Center "on-topic" page tells us:

When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story.

So, ask yourself this: What rule of my world (which is independent of any story) am I asking about? In regard to your question, the answer is "none."

And if you're not asking about a world rule, then you're asking about your story. Storybuilding is off-topic.

BTW, in regards to my first paragraph, you can't simply remove the word "best" (etc.) and think you've solved the problem. The Help Center "Don't Ask" page states:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where every answer is equally valid.

This is the problem with idea-fishing (raw idea generation). Every answer is equally valid. The community over the years has realized that there needs to be some latitude in this or some kinds of problems just can't be solved. The answer is this: An unbounded request for ideas is an off-topic infinite list of things and will (and should) be closed. However, a question that is limited with conditions, limitations, and restrictions becomes an on-topic request for a finite list of things.

It should be noted that there will always be ambiguity over what is a finite list of things. Frankly, the more you can bound the list, the more likely your question won't be closed. It's not perfect, but the alternative is to shut list-style answers (and the questions that ask for them) off completely.

And if you think about it, those conditions, limitations, and restrictions are the circumstances of your story that convert the question from an off-topic too-story-based question to an on-topic help-with-my-rule question. And why is that? Because the question becomes an "application-of-technology" (or, in your case, application-of-process") type question. As in, "given the following exhaustive list of conditions, how can I achieve the following well defined result?"


The general problem with all of the latest torture question, aside from the torture and the gory details, is that the context in which the requested optimization is defined is such fine detail that any answer becomes a story element and cannot really be generalized to worlds.

As such they fall in the "too story based" bucket.


  • All the men have the right to pursue happiness


  • All the men 1.78 m tall, weighing 75 kg and with a mole on their right cheek resembling the profile of Louis XIV have the right to pursue happiness.

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