I've just been having a conversation with people in my creative writing class about trusting the reader. Admittedly this was in a session about poetry, but I think it is true of all writing. As a writer I am too often guilty of trying to force the reader's view by over-informing them. It is as if we want to force the reader into a corner so that they have no option but to view the imaginary world in the same way as we do when we are writing it. To make sure they have 'our picture' we over-describe every detail, leaving the reader with nothing to do except read a detailed report of the events.
But the best books are those that leave most of it to the reader's imagination, so that the two of us - the writer and the reader, are both carrying equal responsibility for imagining the book. This makes for a vivid experience for the reader, who then truly owns the book. For a writer, this means being sparing with the detail and precise in our use of language, and avoiding telling too much.
I much admired Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which was a harrowing book, but the nightmare vision was achieved by allowing our own memories and fears to inhabit the blank spaces in his beautifully open prose.
For a writer of historical fiction this is a particular temptation - there is so much lovely detail in the research I could add, but I have to restrain myself, and continually ask the question: Is this the detail that will conjure the scene for the reader, or is it just more icing on an already over-laden cake?
(that's one metaphor that will definitely have to go!)