This subject was asked to me today by my uncle. I couldn't come up with a general idea at the moment but now that i put some thought my idea is in a story there is no need to be a lesson but a main character who you feel has changed in the story. I also believe that in a story there has to be something use as a good plot device such as religion, government, group, and maybe an object that serves as a religion (such as an apple)
Also i believe a story should have humor if only once or more. I can not think of more at the moment but like the topic says whats your idea? http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/commercials/2009/7/what-makes-a-great-story.jpg
In my opinion, what makes a great story is the way the story is told. Saying something like "Batman was Bruce Wayne, his parents got shot, and now, he is the Dark Knight," is not enough. You need to give me an explanation of what happened, why it happened, and make sure everything is either presented in an easy-to-understand format or makes sense to the reader.
If you have read any book by Steinbeck, then you know that humor is not a necessity. If you have an interesting story line, and your writing style is appealing, then im sure people would enjoy the story.
I had to google Steinbeck.
I had to Google Steinbeck too but looks like i read one of his books. Which was "Of Mice and Men" I never found the book really good in my opinion and nor did my class found it any good. The problem in the book was not much background character information plus even though the book was not supposed to be funny my class did laugh many times from Lenny and his weird way of talking. I will read Steinbeck's other books in my library to get a better understanding of what you meant.
Steinbeck has a peculiar style, if you didnt like the book Of Mice and Men, try the movie directed by Gary Sinise. Probably the saddest endings ever to a movie.
Heres a link for trailer + rating