The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say.
One of the things I hear new writers – okay, more seasoned ones too – say is “Why bother? Every story has been written, probably by people better than I.” And, yes, if you are going to write your story with the same old plot, same old characters, same old everything, don’t bother.
What readers want is authenticity – going for the heart of the story. You have a story in you that, on the surface may look like a stereotypical story – love lost, forgiveness, the death of a loved one – but you have a different way of looking at it than anyone else. We all have our own unique slant on stories, but often we don’t show that “different” side of ourselves, because we fear people will think we are weird.
I wrote a story once about a woman who was unemployed for two years and felt she was going crazy. There was a lot of interior dialogue to show what she was thinking. Some of my nonwriting friends wondered if I had those kinds of thoughts, if I was okay. I assured them I was fine, but had allowed my character to try and express the genuine fears she had about being in her 50s without any prospects of a job ahead. I went as deeply into her psyche as I could – or maybe I should say, I let her go as deeply into her own psyche as she could, to say to herself the things she was unable to say to her friends and family. My writing friends all understood, but it took a few heart-to-hearts with my other friends to convince them I was okay. I actually felt pretty good about that – that I had entered into territory that was real and deep enough that they were worried – really for the character, but they couldn’t separate me from her.
That is what engages your reader and makes your story unique.