Ethical Fiction Writing Guidelines

Draft 0.1 of the Universal Artist Guild ethical fiction writing guidelines.

Ethical standards in writing is generally relegated to non-fiction, and especially to journalism. However, ethical considerations should apply to fiction writing as well. This document is the first draft of the Universal Artist Guild’s Ethical Fiction Writing Guidelines.


One thing that makes humans fairly unique is the capacity to think about alternate realities: things that might have been, could be, and so on. It’s this capacity to think about such things that allows us to craft fictional tales.

These works of fiction do far more than simply act a form of entertainment. They tell us of potential futures, and inspire people to create them. They also warn us of the threats to come, and rally people to action in order to prevent them. Our world may be shaped by engineers, scientists, and inventors, but those people are often shaped by the fiction that they read.

Given that fiction is such a powerful tool, we must wield it carefully. This document, and related works, are an evolving resource to help ensure that those who use the tool of fiction do so ethically.

Truth in Fiction

Fiction is not exactly meant to inform. But it also should not misinform. While not a legal matter, we use the concept of gross negligence as a framework on this issue. Specifically, if a reasonable person who reads the material has a significant chance of being misinformed on a topic, then the author has erred.

This consequence can arise from a failure to differentiate between components of the work that are part of the fictional world being crafted and the components that are part of reality proper, lack of familiarity with a topic covered in the work, an intentional attempt to distort such information, or some combination of these three.

In order to avoid misinforming our readers, we suggest being mindful of the following. Ensure that historical and geographical information which is not intentionally altered for the fiction, as well as scientific theory and terminology that does not need to be altered for the story’s entertainment factor, are all accurate, and that any alterations to this information are clear enough that any reasonable person would not be misinformed.

Also published in the UAG Medium publication