I’ve heard all the criticism of James Cameron’s Avatar.

The plot is predictable.

The bad guys are two-dimensional.

Visual effects don’t substitute for story.

All this is true.

But Avatar isn’t simply a movie with great visuals that happens to be making a ton of money because people are shallow and love gimmicks.

Avatar is making a ton of money because it has incredible world building and audiences care about what happens to the characters.

In November, I attended an all day workshop given by screen writing teacher Michael Hauge. The workshop was an eye opener in a number of ways but the one lesson that keeps coming back to me is about how to get audiences to bond with characters.

One quick way is to create a sympathetic character. But that’s not always possible, especially if you’re writing a difficult character. The next way is to put the character in a sympathetic situation.

And look how Avatar starts….spoilers below the cut…. (more…)