More On Controlling The Story

June 30th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Mary Beth Lucas once said to us, “Bias is everywhere. Your job is to try to keep it out of your work as much as possible.” We were young, freshman year in high school, and quite sure we would write as neutrally as required. We were going to be Brenda Starr and journalists reported without bias.

Ah, how we miss those naive days!

To write without bias is to write without personality. Word choice and usage informs a story and it also reveals the bias of the writer (or, in the case of fiction, the character). We laugh at the notion of a “No Spin Zone” because opinion suffuses everything. Even in biography, the world-view of the writer is part of the work. This is why certain figures invite so many biographies — one cannot capture every moment of a person’s life (thankfully), and by focusing on different aspects, you learn about the subject and biographer.

Bias doesn’t just exist on the part of biographers — it also exists on the part of the subject and those who know them. Terry Teachout discusses a situation where the heirs of Carl Jung have inserted themselves into a biography of the man. Author Deidre Blair, writing to Teachout, notes that the heirs object “editorial opinion” (not facts), and she says:

I regret that the Jung heirs have succeeded in intruding upon my book rather than writing their own, but my deepest regret is that through this unprecedented action they have dishonored their illustrious patriarch and brought opprobrium to his name.

File Under: Square Pegs