Having jumped into reading quite a bit of poetry of late, something generally unknown to me because I'm not much of a lover of poetry, it has dawned on me there are two basic types of fiction writers.
There are poets, and then there are storytellers.
For poets, the words are key, are often the most important factor. For storytellers, words are merely tools used to channel and propel the story.
Now obviously one could argue there are other, different types of writers. I'm not going into all that. And one could also argue that most writers are not completely, 100 hundred percent poet or storyteller, but a mix of the two, and I think there's a lot of truth in that.
For instance, I am a storyteller. If I broke things down into percentages, I'd say I'm about 95 percent storyteller and maybe five percent poet. I do not spend hours upon hours focusing upon my word use. I get the story out and then go back for edits, and even when editing it's not likely I'll change out a simple word for something one would have to look up in the dictionary. That's how I write, and mostly what I prefer to read, at least for pleasure reading.
Looking at famous authors, I'd say Stephen King is mostly storyteller. Tolkien is about half and half, though I think he leans toward the poet side somewhat, and I'd say Neil Gaiman is about the same. James Joyce was heavy on the poet side of things. Hemingway, too, I think leaned toward the poet, though terse in his word usage.
Today I would think the storyteller is more common, or at least more popular in general reading circles, than is the poet. That was not necessarily the case a century or two ago.
For me, for my interests, story is key. Words are but a tool, a wheelbarrow to shuffle along the story.
I really first noticed this about myself about a dozen years ago when I was the game master for a D&D game I was running for a number of friends. While such a game has its mechanics and rules, I didn't always find it necessary to stick with the strict rules and game mechanics. Again, for me, the story was of import, the story I was telling with the players. For example, if a single roll of my dice would kill off a character at a given moment, I didn't necessarily tell the truth about my dice roll, allowing the character to live. It wasn't that I was feeling sorry for the players or the characters, but a matter of how such a death would affect the story. If it would have been a grand death, one worthy of a true hero, I would usually go ahead and let the character be slain, but if the death did not serve the story, then I saved the character to die another day. This is just one example. If I looked back through old notes, I could probably remember a dozen little instances in which I fudged a rule or deviated from a game mechanic in order to push the story onward. There are gamers whose brains would boil at such an idea, but like I've said, for me story is the important element. Even as a game master, I wanted to tell a good story, not just plunk down some dice and see what randomly happens.