1. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Bias in writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ged, Nov 18, 2009.

    Let's say you have two opposing factions, both having, more or less, extremely different views on a subject.

    For example: a society where people hate murder no matter if it's justified or not. They absolutely despise wars, and would rather be slaughtered than participate in one.
    Then you have a society that thrives on killing, where murdering is considered a sport, where if you want to be recognised as an adult you have to kill at least one person.

    Yeah, they don't make much sense, but I'm using those examples just to illustrate a point.

    How do you realistically portray both factions without appearing biased, without the reader going "Ah, so the author's a total hippie / psychopath bent on spilling blood?"
     
  2. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I don’t think that thought will enter anyone’s head. I remember reading Renshai Trilogy (well actually I think I’m on book 2) where the Renshai are people who live and die by the blade. I can’t think of other stories at the moment, but there are many like this. I never found myself wondering if Mickey Zucker Reichert was blood thirsty.
     
  3. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    I'm not sure that you can realistically portray them without bias because to a certain extent, bias is assumed. For example, you can read an encyclopedia article on the holocaust, and even if all the language is objective and the information is factual, the holocaust will still seem bad because that's the reader's bias playing into it.

    What I would do is write the psychopathic faction in a sympathetic light. Most people are going to assume the hippie faction are the good guys and their pacifism/willingness to die for their beliefs is admirable. So focus on the psychopaths. Give them a rich history and try to somehow justify their actions just enough that the reader at least understands their perspective. Then things aren't so black and white and you have a nice sense of conflict.
     
  4. schnutzz
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    schnutzz New Member

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    I very much agree with this post for most fiction. However writer bias can be an important tool in non fiction and even historical fiction. If the author can't pick a side in his/her own arguement how can he/she expect the reader to ever pick a side. Comparison reading is great but ultimately doesn't get very far with no goal. Example, test driving without ever intending to buy.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is no such thing as an unbiased viewpoint. But to realistically portray both sides, you, the writer, need to be able to get inside each person's head and see the merits of each side, without mentally jumping to the rebuttal for each point.

    You could call it the ability to play Devil's advocate well.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Precisly. You have to develop the ability to argue a point with which you do not agree. Debate class is great for that. It's easy to argue a point you believe in, the real skill comes in arguing a point in which you do not believe.

    If we use the example you gave, the pacifistic, peaceful people would be the easier of the two to paint because they would come off as the nice guys. If you really did have two such groups of people you would have some trouble finding a believable way to portray why the peaceful folk had not been stomped out by the bloodthirsty folk, tho.

    Now the bloodthirsty folk might seem to be the challenge, but there could be all kinds of cultural devices you could employ as to how this cultural viewpoint became self-propagating.

    The problem I would see with the bloodthirsty folk is how to paint a realistic way for them not have exterminated themselves long ago.

    All of these different questions will lead you into creating the why of the two different groups which should be an effective road to painting them fairly and believably.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how you do it is simply by being a good writer!
     
  8. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    I can't tell if I'm a good writer or not. Certainly I'm a very self-criticising writer, on the rare occasions that I actually do write.
     
  9. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    We don't read any of The Catcher In The Rye and assume that J.D. Salinger is an unsuccessful jack-A**
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love picking up vacant viewpoints and argue them, just for the sake of it. It's something you have to do if you want nuance in a story and avoid writing propaganda. It's part of the "what if ... ?" nature of a writer. You just ask yourself "what if I saw the world this way?"

    Justifying your brutal society seems pretty straight-forward. Just look at nature through the eyes of Darwin and then notch it up a bit.

    This society of yours promotes natural selection. Weed out the weak so the strong may survive, for the good of the species as a whole. The sick are baggage to society. They drag everyone else down. Their desire to live, for the worse of everyone else, is antisocial. If they wanted what is best for humanity as a whole, they would let themselves die, leaving room and resources for those who are strong. The pacifists are hypocrites. They deny their own instincts. If everyone before them had thought like they do, then humanity would never have evolved. And now they just back out of the game, enjoying the hard-earned fruits of evolution, without getting their own hands dirty. Hypocrites! Look beyond the needs, wishes and desires of the individual, and then you see this so-called brutal society as the only one that truly values life according to nature. Its a life you have to earn and a life you have to fight for. For the sake of humanity as a whole.
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    May I steal this entire quote?
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your question has the answer built into it.

    It was meant as an example, for inspiration. Do the exercise yourself, build your arguments and make it your own writing.
     

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