To craft a story that resonates with your reader you need to connect with their heart. Whether it makes their heart soften with tenderness or charge with suspense is up to you. How do you connect with your reader’s heart? Simple: connect with your own.
Your Universal Experience
Ask yourself: what gets to me? What brings tears to my eyes? What worries me or makes my heart race or makes me obsess for years on end? If it gets to you, chances are, it will get to your reader too. Because we’re all human and the stories that resonate are the ones that are about the human experience. So think of experiences you’ve had with family, friends or even via the news that wouldn’t let you go. Find that universal thread and shine it until it glows.
Your Unique Experience
Now, look at it from a different angle. Readers also want to be intrigued. For that, you need something unique. Well, you’re unique. There’s no one on earth who experiences life like you do. Ask yourself: what gets to me that sets me apart? Do I have a unique passion or talent? Am I a little quirky? How so? Have I experienced something life-changing that was unusual? How did it or does it affect me personally? What about this thing is unique. Now turn up the volume on that unique angle. Twist it until a reader can't help but pick up your book.
Your Reading Experience
Of course, we don’t all write just out of our own life experience. The sci-fi and historical fiction shelves would be sparse if we did. So here’s another question: What draws me in when I’m reading? Because chances are that a novel that captivated you, captivated others. What was it in a particular novel that got to you? Study it until you know, and see if there’s a general idea you can weave into your own story. I’m not advising riffing someone else’s story exactly, only finding the general idea.
So for example, if you loved The Martian, you’re not going to write another story about someone stranded in outer space. But you might think about how the life and death struggle made you read on, or how you admired the hero’s genius and humor. Or perhaps you liked the idea of the whole world watching and caring about what happened to the hero. One or two of those things can be woven into your story about a WWII medic, say, or a homeless mom, for a unique outcome, while keeping the reader hooked.
One last question. What fascinates you and makes you want to learn more? Because if it fascinates you, that passion will translate on to the page, and it will hook your reader. I certainly didn’t think I would want to read about growing food on Mars or how to jerry-rig a space vehicle. But Andy Weir’s passion for space won me over, along with a lot of drama. So, whatever passion is yours, follow it, especially if you’re willing to research it like crazy. Your passion, see, is what will capture the reader’s heart.