by Karen Dionne

Details, details. You need them to make your story believable, but too many can drag your plot to a halt. Here's how to strike that just-right balance of fact in your fiction.

That's the introduction to my article "Fact Into Fiction," featured in the January issue of Writer's Digest magazine. You can pick up a copy of the magazine at your local bookstore, or purchase one online through Writer's Digest's website.

The article explains how authors can incorporate their research smoothly into their novels, and along with my own comments, includes advice from bestselling thriller authors Steve Berry, Douglas Preston, Gayle Lynds, David Hewson, and Joe Moore.

Here's a sampling:

David Hewson, bestselling author of the Nic Costa series: "The reason we use truth in fiction is so we can tell a bigger, better lie. It's the lie -- how big, convincing and 'real' it is -- that matters."

New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston: "In a novel, something doesn't have to be true; it only has to be believable. The word 'fiction' is a marvelous cover for all kinds of shenanigans, distortions, manipulations and outright fabrications."

Karen Dionne: "Readers love learning something new, but above all, remember: a novel is a story. An author's job is to entertain. Don't let your enthusiasm for your material turn your novel into the literary equivalent of three hours of vacation pictures."

What the article DOESN'T discuss is the research trip I took last spring to visit the setting for my upcoming novel: an active volcano in Northern Patagonia, Chile. The trip was an absolute blast (pun intended).

I know I'm not alone in sticking my neck out for my art. What's the most outrageous thing YOU'VE done in the name of research?

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