What “is” emotional resonance?
According to google definitions “resonance” is the "the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface” which is just a complicated way to say resonance is the interaction between a force
And an object
In the movie Avatar, by James Cameron, the protagonist, Jake Sully, is a paraplegic space marine. More than anything he wants the use of his legs back, so when he gets the chance to take his deceased brother’s place by putting his conscious into an avatar on Na’vi, he takes it. The problem is that he starts feeling emotions in reaction to the situations his avatar experiences, which is the way it should be… because Sully and his avatar are the same.
He is literally living through his avatar, which is the same thing your reader does when they experience a book they resonate with—they aren’t reading the book, they’re living the emotions you’ve laid out for them to feel.
The interface between book and reader is their avatar
And your book is their Na’vi.
Sully is emotionally resonating with his experiences on Na’vi in the same way you want your reader to resonate with your book because you aren’t creating a book—you’re creating 1/2 an avatar, a vehicle to carry your reader’s conscious—to allow them to experience the protagonist’s emotions as if they were their own.
And what does that mean?
It means, if you are writing a romance, your reader wants everything from the first look to the last kiss, they want a cohesive roller coaster ride of emotions, they don’t want bumper cars—where the protagonists go around randomly emoting or the Junior Grand Prix, going around a flat track at 5 miles an hour. Which leaves little room for error and leads to another--even bigger question.
If millions of people watched Avatar, and enjoyed the emotions Cameron laid out, what about the millions that didn’t? I didn’t watch Avatar; I just couldn’t get into it. What is it about some stories that sweep you away and others you delete from your reader or throw under the bed?
The answer is here (do not go here if you are easily upset!)
This first picture is a picture of a firefighter carrying Baylee Almon out of the ruins of the Oklahoma Federal building.
The second is the iconic flag raising on Iwo Jima.
Both pictures are highly emotional, and resonate on a very deep level, but they resonate differently. 100% of the time I do not like the Baylee Almon photograph, because the emotions are so deeply disturbing to me as a parent. I don’t read books about dead kids, dying kids, or kids in danger. And while I might read about a kid in danger as part of a romantic suspense, I want that kid to be alive and well at the end, because I don’t want to experience the emotions of losing a child, or suffering while my child is hurt. Ever. And heaven forbid you betray my trust as a reader by springing a dead kid on me as a “surprise”.
The biggest reason people delete or reject books isn’t because the writing is bad or somebody didn’t proof the upload, the biggest reason people reject a book is because they’re not interested in the emotions laid out in the story.