The other day I watched several interviews. Actors were discussing the movies that most impacted their careers. They each mentioned older movies, many are today's classics. Hands down, they all said it was the drama that appealed to them.
When they listed actors who were most influential in their careers, they said the quality of the acting set them apart; that they could carry the scene single handedly. They discussed dramatic acting, not good looks or athletic bodies.
They discussed modern movies with computer generated special effects and exotic settings, too. But they kept retuning to one theme - drama. It was made up of two elements: story and acting ability.
To translate that into print, it brought me back to story line and character development. Both have to be well rooted in technique, but not so rigidly that they lack substance. Just like acting has to be well presented and believable, so does writing. Books can't rely on big explosions that fill the theatre with sound and lights.
The single biggest mistake I see beginning writers make is tiring of the edits and rewrites before the drama of the story line comes through in polished form. Both the story and the characters have to be something the reader can relate to on some level. People want to see a little of "me" in the story and the character so they can slip into the unreal, but real-like world of fiction.