Emotional resonance seems a very subjective term to me. Like so many of the phrases you might see on a rejection slip. "Your characters lack emotional resonance". But what does it mean?
Resonance. Well the Free Dictionary gives a few definitions, I guess the most relevant might be: Richness or significance, especially in evoking an association or strong emotion.
If I am guessing correctly - and honestly I don't even know if the people who use this term really define it, even for themselves - emotional resonance is about evoking within the reader the emotions you are trying to portray in the work. If a character is said to lack emotional resonance, then my understanding is something along the lines that this character does not evoke an emotion in the reader.
Now I am pretty sure that this term is also used when people object to a character, and also when the reader does not buy the reactions that a character might have - you might say when the suspension of disbelief is broken. This seems to be a different issue, but it gets lumped into the same basket.
Of course, beyond the definition and what exactly people are trying to say is the reason for the lack of emotional resonance. The characterisation may just be poorly thought out or executed, or perhaps there is a lack of consistency that is jarring. Perhaps the emotional reactions of the character do not gel in some situations, and this breaks the reader-writer connection.
Even though all of this could be true, I think more often than not the reason is that the reader (or editor is they happen to be one), just don't like that character. They don't 'get' them. The things that particular character experience and strive for, their emotional reactions, do not echo with any level of personal experience in the reader. If that is the case, then no amount of crafting will make that reader like the work - no matter how good the characterisation or how relevant it is to the story.
I don't know. Help me out. What do people mean by 'emotional resonance'?