Before joining Writing.SE, I was looking for a place to ask questions about novels I read and their literary aspects. I think this is, probably, out of the scope of Writing.SE, and if those types of questions became popular, it would forever change the intended function of the site.

I'll list a few potential questions that fall under the qualification above:

  • What are the beginning, middle, and end acts of Homer's Odyssey?
  • What is the inciting incident in Ocean's Eleven?
  • What are the Save The Cat plot beats in 12 Angry Men?
  • What type of character development did Iron Man undergo in Infinity War?
  • Is the pacing in the climax of John Grisham's The Racketeer too fast? And why?

Are the above off topic? If so, do those questions belong to another StackExchange site?

  • Those questions would be a good fit for Literature Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 21:14
  • 3
    However, if you want to use these examples when discussing your OWN writing issues, they'd be great! Like "I'm trying to follow the "save the cat" beats in my courtroom drama indie movie I'm scripting. I'm especially having trouble with X & Y -- and I don't know if they're even necessary -- it seems like 12 Angry Men skips over them, but everyone agrees it's a great film." Or "My beta readers think my pacing is too fast, but I'm trying to evoke vintage-inspired superhero movies like The Rocketeer. How do you control pacing, and is it different for XYZ type of stories?" Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 15:51
  • 1
    @April That would be an excellent answer.
    – Cyn
    Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 17:11

2 Answers 2


Yes, questions about existing literature are off-topic on Writing.SE

Taken from the Help Center, specifically the topic What topics can I ask about here?:

On the other hand, these kinds of questions aren't allowed here:
- Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work (except when applied to a real-world writing project).

Fos questions about existing literature you should check out our sister site Literature.SE. From their What topics can I ask about here?:

Topics that will most likely be considered on-topic include:
1. Questions about how to interpret a specific scene, quote, theme, plot point, etc. in a work of literature.

As I am not an active member on that specific site I encourage you to have a closer look at their rules and guidelines and check out some of their questions to get a feeling for their scope and way of asking questions in the direction you are interested in.


I think some of those questions can be valid, to an extent. The three act structure is derived from existing stories, and identifying where beats occur in "Lord of the Rings" vs the movie "The Equalizer" can be helpful to a writer, to help them see the underlying structure common to stories that appear on the surface to be very different.

For example identifying the "inciting incident" or how Stephen King developed character traits in "The Stand".

We don't allow interpretation questions about existing works, which I take to mean philosophical questions about "what it means" or what it reflects in the real world.

But I consider "how it was built" and how certain effects were achieved by the author to be about the craft of writing, and therefore on-topic.

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