Yes, story is important, although it need not be epic in nature, just something that touches the heart or stirs the mind to interest.
For me, the enjoyable journey through a story is fed by good writing.
I can’t get excited, particularly with a novel, about story regardless of its magnitude because it is just that; a product of the imagination. Hell, there’s more in life every day to get hepped up about. But with the narrative structure, the plot… (and here I have Aristotle to back me:
But most important if all is the structure of the incidents. For Tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, and life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. (Poetics, Part VI, para. 5)
…the plot is particularly a product of good writing. Believe me, I know this well; my stories often fall flat because despite the flow of words, the arrangement and choice of sequence to build the conflicts to follow an arc isn’t there.
While I am still working on applying Poetics to Cannery Row (It’s actually much easier to see what Aristotle means when you read something, remember something that Aristotle wrote, then go back and reread both, his essay becomes clear.), I need to dig out the most relevant section from Poetics to examine the sequence of events in Cannery Row that I just posted on yesterday. It may take several postings to cover all the aspects, but that’s what I’m trying to do now, pick out the most relevant and obvious of Aristotle’s statement as well as select carefully from Cannery Row to best display the theory without going into a 12-page thesis (which I see now I could easily do. In fact, if I ever went for a Masters, I’d seriously consider applying Poetics to a literary work.)