After the tag was recently edited into one of my questions, I realised that I'm not entirely sure how this tag is supposed to be used, and went to check the list of questions using it. Examples:

There is no tag wiki, and the tag wiki excerpt says:

For questions about the author, inspirations, or other out-of-universe questions about a work.

But as with most of our tag wikis, this was created by a single user, with approval from two others, and there's no meta discussion about it yet. So I'm starting one.

How should the tag be used?

  • For all out-of-universe questions about any literary work? If so, can we rename it ?
  • For questions about what inspired a particular character, event, place, etc. in a literary work? If so, can we use instead?
  • Something else?

Whatever we decide, the tag is definitely being used inconsistently at the moment, so retagging will be needed. But first we need to get a clear idea of how it should be used.

  • We have a tag for the story connections: intertexuality
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 13:01
  • +1 for [out-of-universe]
    – fi12
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 14:10
  • Also FWIW my tag wiki edit was not based on whether it should exist, it was from a desire to have a description. I was unaware of the (lack of) consensus.
    – user72
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 15:40
  • out-of-universe seems way too unspecific, especially when often questions might be content with either and in-universe or an out-of-universe explanation to something. But yeah, behind-the-scenes seems even more broad at that. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 18:06

3 Answers 3



This is clearly the most appropriate resolution as everything, which currently falls under would belong better under a more specific tag.

The only one you mention that lacks a tag, How many of Poe's stories are interconnected?, would belong under .

  • @Rand Intertextuality concerns questions arising when discussing meaning between works that would normally be considered discrete and independent. A cheap example is how Vonnegut's work self-references at many turns.
    – user80
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 13:38
  • The question about Poe's stories now has that tag. Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 15:01
  • Seems like a useless meta tag. You can't meaningfully search for it, there are no experts in "behind the scenes", and I don't see people subscribing to it.
    – DVK
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 15:10

I agree with Benjamin's answer, burninate.

It's weird to say "behind the scenes" about literature to begin with. The term originates from theater and was applied to film because film evolved from theater, but there are no "scenes" to get behind with a written work.

I also don't think it will be that useful in the long run to use tags to distinguish between in-universe and out-of-universe questions. I can see why this might be useful on Sci-Fi and Fantasy; so many of the questions are about obscure details of elaborate fictional universes, and answers tend to assume a fully in-universe perspective unless otherwise requested, so a tag helps prevent someone showing up with an unwelcome answer from the wrong perspective. But Anime and Manga doesn't make this distinction formally, and I don't believe Movies and TV does either; if it's not clear from context, you mention in your question "I'd like out-of-universe explanations please".

I also find that I can't properly justify classifying subjects like symbolism or story structure as either in-universe or out-of-universe. They're sort of both. They can be focused solely on the text and events in the story. which are in-universe things. But they can also involve events which happened in the real world, such as historical events or events in the author's life. They're sort of out-of-universe because they're about things that the characters don't recognize or notice. They're part of the artificial superstructure of the story.

The way it all blends together is too woolly for me to find it a useful distinction. I don't think the distinction adds anything to the Ginsberg question, for instance. The Grisham question is well-served by . As for the Salinger question, it's exactly the kind of woolly mess I was thinking of. It's basically asking about the existence of a "J.D. Salinger Literary Universe", which can be answered either in-universe ("Yes, these characters and places recur in multiple stories") or out-of-universe ("Yes, here's an interview where Salinger said he connected all of his stories in one universe after watching Iron Man 2") or both ("These characters do cross over and the places they live are real places Salinger lived that inspired his work").


is a useful tag. It should be used when asking about elements of a work that are not related to the story.

Even though it is a broad tag, posts are allowed up to 5 tags, so I see no harm in it. A broad tag may also help a question as instead of having many tags with low numbers of questions, we can have a single tag with a large number of questions. This could help attract people to these types of questions.

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