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TV Tropes Monday: Trapped Behind Enemy Lines


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War, as they say (whoever they are), is hell. It is blood, guts and unless your film is a piece of propaganda, very little glory. The threat of death and defeat, the chaos of combat, the contest of arms serves as the perfect set up for a story conflict, either at its core or as a background element. But dismembering foot soldiers with shiny swords or blowing up ships full of men gets tired pretty quickly. Sometimes you need to push the tension to 11.

How do you do that? By trapping your characters Behind Enemy Lines.

But what is it about this specific situation that puts it above the average war scenario in terms of stakes and tension?

  • The characters are cut off from resources. They have no shelter to rest, nor any way to replenish their stocks of ammunition, food, or water.
  • They are surrounded by the enemy. And not just enemy troops that often outnumber them, but by civilians that can not bet trusted. Even a small child offering you a glass of water may be buying time for an enemy patrol to roll in an capture the characters.
  • The terrain is unfamiliar. The characters often are in a different country or even a different world, dimension or reality. Navigating the environment is bad enough even in friendly territory let alone when you don’t know any of the landmarks, do not recognize the local flora or fauna, and are exposed to the extremes of the elements.
  • Crossing the front lines is dangerous. After surviving everything the enemy threw at the characters, they may end up getting shot by friendly troops that mistook them for enemies or sent to prison as deserters or spies.

If that doesn’t up the ante of your story, I doubt anything will.


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