Not being biased is a good place to start. Obviously, that’s not always
possible, but maintaining a degree of impartiality is incredibly useful to you
as a writer, and in life.
As a writer, your job is to relate the story, not to pick favorites. It’s
easy to become too attached to one of your characters. We put a bit of
ourselves into every character we write, so it’s really easy to recognize
something of yourself in one of your characters. On its own this is fine, but
when you start playing favorites, it becomes a problem.
Sometimes bias isn’t actually bias. If you have two characters trying to
deal with a problem, and they’re both predisposed towards a specific solution
(for whatever reason), it’s not bias to have them agreeing with one another.
Even if they don’t usually agree. When this is the case, you need a reason for
the scene to exist. That could be to demonstrate character growth, to showcase
that this is rare common ground for characters, or to point out that the presented
alternative is just that stupid.
Character interactions thrive on finding how these people are similar, and
where they diverge, then working scenes around that. Arguments and debates are
a fantastic method of explaining to the audience who your characters are
without lapsing into unchallenged exposition. At this point, the other
participants aren’t there to disprove your character, they function as a kind
of acid test; showing how your character handles their philosophy being challenged.
Like I said earlier, your job isn’t to pick favorites, it’s to explain what
happened. A character who has high minded ideals but crumples under pressure will
be far more interesting in the aftermath, than someone who got their way in
every conversation and never faced serious adversity.
I’ll stress this again, your characters are not you. They’re not your
friends or family. You may care about them. But, you should never let that get
in the way of making their lives miserable. A life without adversity isn’t
going to lead to a compelling story. If you find yourself going too easy on
your characters, step back, and reevaluate what you want to do.
Now, I don’t mean you need to literally torture your characters, or force
them to (again, literally) crawl through broken glass, while everyone in their
lives die horribly. There is such a thing as too much adversity. But, if things
are going too well for your characters, it might be time to start putting
pressure back on them.
Another major method is to know both sides of the argument. This is just
good practice in the real world as well. If you know what someone else’s
argument is, before they start, you can preemptively start cutting them off by
discrediting their arguments before they’re able to bring them up.
If you’re looking at political, philosophical or theological debates, it is very important that you have a
functional understanding of the topics you’re discussing, including the
positions of the relative groups you’re representing. There isn’t a one stop
solution to this, you’ll need to actually research those positions, and do your
best to represent them in an honest fashion.
I’ll be honest, unless you’re very well versed in the specific issues,
writing political and theological debates is quite difficult. These are often irreconcilable
differences where there is no real winning. The best you can hope for is your
characters having more respect in the other’s position than they started with.
Also, while it’s important you understand both sides of the argument, that
doesn’t necessarily mean your characters need to. Remember, you have access to
information that they (and the audience) lack. They need to argue based on the
information they have, not an omniscient understanding of their opponent. They
may have worked to understand them, but that doesn’t mean they’ve succeeded.
Even when you’re just looking at your characters positions, it’s very
important to have coherent philosophical outlooks driving them. Note: not the same outlook. Good villains, ones that
stick with you, are characters who have well thought out reasons for what they’ve
done. Outside of melodrama, Saturday morning cartoons, and the occasional
Batman villain, most people don’t get out of bed in the morning, cackling at
the prospect of getting to be evil.
A calm, rational antagonist who can articulate their position logically is
far more threatening than a gibbering lunatic who spends their evenings licking
There’s a slight trick here: In the process of creating philosophical
outlooks for your other characters, it will make you more invested in them, and
more interested in seeing their argument play out. When you actually have an investment
in both characters and their positions, you less likely to be biased towards
one of them. If you’re still worried that you might be (or feel that one of
your characters must be right), then it might be time to step back and
reevaluate them carefully.