On this site, the tag has 700+ questions associated with it, but the overwhelming majority of questions here (currently 4800 or so) relate to fiction. While many of the non-fiction-tagged questions can also relate to other sorts of writing, some do not. On the font page alone I found three or four questions that clearly needed the fiction tag.

While I did a little retagging to those front page questions, should we undertake a grand re-tagging for the entire site? If so, what do we do with questions that already have five tags (the maximum number)? Do we toss out one of the tags used? What about genre tags, like , , do we need to add to those questions? (If not, that makes "fiction" mean, essentially, "non-genre fiction".)

A related question: Should we depreciate the tag? It's in many cases a synonym for fiction but there are a few cases where it's appropriate. Maybe we can delete it to make room in fiction questions for now when needed?

Edit: So far, the slight consensus we have sounds like we shouldn't be doing a mass re-tagging, at most updating tags as we come across them. We also have some good suggestions about when to use the fiction tag and when it's not needed.

  • 1
    "Creative writing" is the name of courses taught in high school, college, or in adult education. To me that tag implies questions about writing in the context of personal development and the development of writing-unrelated or not-writing-specific skills.
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 11:50
  • Do we have any evidence that people are navigating the site by tags? In meta.writers.stackexchange.com/questions/1212/… you yourself said "The vast, vast majority of pageviews on this site come from search engines." If so, I suspect that the tags are moot. Not a lot of point in a re-tagging project unless we are confident that it will make a difference.
    – user16226
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 14:54
  • People may or may not navigate the site by tags, but one of the features of the site is to subscribe to (or ignore) tags, so it makes sense to keep the tags accurate. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 5:39

3 Answers 3


When I see the fiction tag, I think the question is about fiction in general and how it differs from other kinds of writing. That is, to me it signals question that ask: What is fiction? I think the fiction tag should not be applied to every question that has something to do with the writing of fiction.

For example, a question about descriptive language in science fiction and fantasy should not be tagged as fiction, because although fantasy is fiction by definition the focus of the question is not on the fact that it is fictive but on that it is not crime fiction or romance. Tagging such a question as being about fiction would be misleading, as it does not help understanding fiction.

Questions always imply a differentiation. As we have seen, a question (and its answers) only make sense in relation to what you want to do. A question about how to characterize a sleuth only makes sense in the context of crime fiction, so it should be tagged as crime fiction. Tags name the (often implicit) differentiation that underlies a question.

The fiction tag should be applied to questions that ask about fiction in general and how fiction differs from non-fiction writing. For example, if someone wants to know how to use footnotes in fiction, then that question deals with fiction.

A tag becomes useless when it applies to half or more of the questions on this site. It no longer differentiates one kind of question from another and doesn't help a user find what they seek.

By the way, a question about backstory should not be tagged as fiction, because biographies, travel journals, or popular science books – all of which are not fiction – can have a backstory (or plot, for that matter).

  • I think this is an excellent answer. Can you think of a way of distilling this into something that can fit into the tag wiki? (Needs to be no more than 460 characters long.) Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 5:49
  • @NeilFein I'll try to write something tonight (i.e. in about 16 hours).
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 6:21
  • The wiki excerpt is short and shows up on mouse-over, but don't forget that we can also say more in the wiki, which can be much longer. The full wiki also supports full markdown including links, so it's the place to link to related tags. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 23:17

There are two reasons to have a tag:

  • To describe the question along one dimension -- from the front page people can see the title, tags, and the first bit of the body, and on that basis they decide what to read. In my experience, more-specific tags are more useful here than general ones.

  • To help people find questions of interest. In my experience, broader tags are more useful here, as there's nothing that aids discovery of related tags. (If you're interested in fiction in general and you've ended up in , there's nothing that leads you to for more.)

These goals are at odds with each other and SE doesn't support hierarchical tagging, hence the problem.

Further, if a tag applies to half or more of the questions on the site, its utility as a way of filtering the content is suspect.


When tagging a question, consider whether, at its core, this is a question about a genre, a question about fiction in general, or both. For example, a question about writing dialogue should probably be tagged (among other tags of course) even though your particular story is a fantasy. That it's a fantasy really doesn't affect how you have your characters talk to each other. On the other hand, if your question is about representing non-verbal languages (like cephalopods' color-based dialogue) in a conversation with humans, that's better tagged ; while some information might transfer to other genres, it doesn't really apply to fiction as a whole.

So, use a genre tag if the question is genre-dependent, use the tag if it's generally applicable, and if both seem appropriate (we cannot possibly anticipate all cases), use both. Tagging is somewhat organic.

To go along with this, let's make sure the tag wikis are top-notch. The wiki should say it's for issues that cut across all types of fiction and it should list all our genre tags. Genre-tag wikis should point to related genre tags if relevant and always also point to . Let's make sure we provide good navigational breadcrumbs.

As for retagging, let's not try to retag hundreds or thousands of questions at once. We can be more pragmatic about it: if (after we agree on our goals and guidelines) you see a question that's mis-tagged, fix it. This especially applies to the front page, but also duplicate targets, related questions, or just anything you come across in your normal use of the site. If there's anything else obvious that can be improved at the same time (like unclear or typoed titles), try to get that too.

seems over-broad to me. It's not just fiction; probably also qualifies. I haven't reviewed the questions on the tag, but it feels superfluous. (I wonder how many questions have only that tag, but don't have time to apply SEDE at the moment.)


I think all of your ideas about are good. I've always been of the opinion, if possible, to have all five tag slots filled for questions on the main site (less of an issue here on Meta). The reason being is it makes it easier for new people to find things through search or what have you. Tags are metadata for the question, so it may help someone when looking for find the Q/A which covers their needs. This may also help with bringing people here from Google searches.

I wouldn't think there would be a need to delineate between the different genres, though. What I mean by that is, I if something is already tagged with one of these other genre tags, I don't think we'd need to add unless there is a slot open.

Getting it done is a a different matter. Depending on the question count, this could be a lot of work, plus there's also the part about who's going to make the call if something should be re-tagged as such. This can become a sticking point very quickly, but if it's decided it needs to be done, the work can push forward.

I really don't have an opinion on the , so it is what it is ... I'll gladly defer to someone who has a much broader understanding to make that decision and/or comment on it.

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