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We had quite a few questions that were deemed off-topic because they asked about specific subjects relevant to the plot of someone's story, and not to writing in general.

I remember a question about "what could cause a lockdown of a nuclear power plant", a question how linguistics of an alien species could develop, something about choosing a believable motivation for a villain... Our current policy for these is "Help the poor soul out of a pinch, send them in the right direction where they could find the answers, and close the question."

Well, currently there is a site in beta (and doing really well) to answer exactly that family of questions: Worldbuilding. I guess mentioning that in the FAQ (the "topicality" of subjects) and migrating relevant questions there would be the right approach.


Questions about creative writing specific to the world depicted: believable fictional creatures, political systems, advances of science, interactions of specific fictional factors with the real world, and other problems directly related to creation of consistent, believable plot elements within the specific setting of your story belong to Worldbuilding.SE.

While Writers answers generic questions that can be applied to a range of stories across a genre, Worldbuilding gives answers to questions specific to the narrow reality of your story.

  • I'd definitely like to get Worldbuilding on our standard migration paths. But for the FAQ, I'm not sure how I'd explain succinctly the type of question we're describing. Do you think you might give an example of how you'd write this clearly? – Standback Mar 30 '15 at 7:34
  • Ah, but migration paths are only possible to graduated sites. Oh well :-/ – Standback Mar 30 '15 at 7:54
  • @Standback: I added a paragraph that might work. Check it please, and feel free to edit or suggest improvements. – SF. Mar 30 '15 at 8:14
  • So, I'm going to stand by my answer below - we definitely want that in Meta, particularly on the on-topic rundown; but it's too long and too niche for the FAQ. – Standback Mar 30 '15 at 8:17
  • @Standback: okay. - but what would be an accessible location for that? We can't demand visitors to search through meta questions for that. – SF. Mar 30 '15 at 8:21
  • We should link the on-topic summary from the FAQ, if it isn't linked already. And the on-topic summary is one of my go-to links to provide people asking these types of questions. Stack Exchange is more complicated than any one help page; I don't expect newcomers to know all the guidelines, but I do expect that the guidelines be clear and easy to find once you know to look for them. So if searching for "worldbuilding" on Meta doesn't give you the answer right away, that's something we need to fix. – Standback Mar 30 '15 at 8:26
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    By the way, the other really good place to link to Worldbuilding.SE would be in our world-building tag wiki (if it isn't linked already). – Standback Mar 30 '15 at 8:26
  • I think migration paths to betas can be set up with special permission, but we'd need to show that there's a real need, preferably in the form of data: a list of questions that would have been migrated to WB had that been an option. – Monica Cellio Mar 30 '15 at 21:49
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Although I'd love to cement the link between Writers and Worldbuilding, I think this is a particular case which is not well-suited for the FAQ.

The FAQ page on "on-topic questions" reads as follows:

On the other hand, these kinds of questions aren't allowed here:

  • Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work.
  • Proofreading requests.
  • Requests to critique your work. However, please do feel free to use your own writing as examples in on-topic questions.
  • The strictly interpreted correctness of English grammar or syntax rules (please ask those on English Stack Exchange, instead).
  • Finding a professional to write for you, be your agent, etc.
  • A specific, localized shopping recommendation as described here.
  • Asking "what should I write about" (more about this here).
  • Requests to rephrase something - a few sentences, or even a single sentence.

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?"

Worldbuilding questions are a very, very specific sub-case of "what should I write about" and brainstorming requests. (For example, they're limited to the SF/F genres.)

I think that the FAQ, which is meant to provide a clear overview, would be weighed down unnecessarily by attempting to provide alternatives for a wide range of off-topic questions (for example, we don't write, Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work (but if they're SF/F, try SciFi.SE) - that would be confusing. English.SE is something of an exception here because the scope of the two sites has a great measure of overlap, which could be relevant to almost all their potential audiences. But just explaining what we mean by specific worldbuilding questions (as opposed to good, on-topic-for-Writers.SE questions) would be an onerous diversion.

Where it would be extremely helpful to reference Worldbuilding.SE would be on our On-Topic rundown, which goes into more detail on common cases. Worldbuilding could definitely be referenced from the "Research" topic there, or it could get its own sub-heading.

  • I believe the list of off-topic subjects should remain as-is, and then be followed by a small set of roadsigns: If you've found your question off-topic, see if any of the helpful links below can help. Similarly, English.SE and ELL.SE should get their own paragraphs. – SF. Mar 30 '15 at 8:16
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    I think a list of related sites, below the off-topic list, could work. I know I've seen that somewhere on the network, but now I can't remember where. – Monica Cellio Mar 30 '15 at 21:48
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    A small nit to pick, Worldbuilding has had several questions with answers that were well received that would not be recognized as sf/fantasy, but I am just being pedantic. – hildred Apr 1 '15 at 16:57
  • Perhaps we can also update this question to include Worldbuilding? What are the boundaries between Writers, ELU, and ELL? – Neil Fein May 2 '15 at 15:59

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