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So my fantasy story starts out with two characters travelling by foot through endless woods. They can't take the roads because of an oppressive like government, but the woods are apparently safe. But I realized that doesn't make much sense. Why not have the government patrol the woods to make sure fugitives and other baddies aren't hiding there?

But then my characters would run into more trouble than is needed for the plot. Only the first 1/5 of the story has them travelling in secret, and then an event later happens that completely removes the need for secrecy. I'm just looking for ideas on how to write the travel scenes and not adding little conflicts to pad things up.

How would they get around the patrols in the woods?

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closed as off-topic by Neil Fein Mar 7 at 23:34

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This question appears to be off-topic because questions asking what to write are off-topic here. –  Neil Fein Mar 7 at 23:34
    
@NeilFein It seems that the OP is not asking about what to write, and already has a plot and setting and all. The issue is more about how to deal with a specific plot hole - whether that is on topic or not is debatable though. –  Cristol.GdM Mar 8 at 0:40
    
@Scrollmaster - Good point, but in that case, this is a brainstorming question, meant to generate plot ideas. –  Neil Fein Mar 8 at 4:03
    
Give one of the protagonists a reasonable outdoorsman skill. Hiding from someone in the woods is much easier than finding someone in the woods, in general. Given similar skill level between the seeker and the hiding one, and moderately large and varied woods, the hiding one wins hands down. Simply have them hide from the patrols and that will create some pretty good scenes of tension too! –  SF. Mar 8 at 5:49
    
More trouble than is needed? Wait? What? Do you really ask for less conflict? In a fiction story? You are doing it wrong. I mean it. No, it is no good idea to use less conflict. Especially not if it is handed on a silver platter. –  John Smithers Mar 8 at 13:34

4 Answers 4

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Mostly for the same reason real life law enforcement agencies patrol mainly the roads.

  • More difficult to navigate: Roads are purposely made for travel to be easier. Patrols can cover a wide range easily. Woods on the other hand, would restrict movements, and make patrols more difficult.

  • More dangerous: If all the bandits or rebels hide in the forests, this is not the best place to be as a government agent.

  • Nobody important to protect anyway: Good citizens walk the roads. Bandits hide in the woods. Patrols want to protect the citizens, so they protect the roads.

Note however that there could be a specialized unit tasked with patrolling the woods. But they would most likely be smaller and easier to avoid.

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What are the roads like (maintained / protected by govt. troops? Paved?) What are the woods like - wild animals that most people try to avoid? Muddy / slow travel? Lots of reasons that woods would not be patrolled except for when hunting major fugitives. Also, even if woods are generally patrolled, how well? Maybe easy to avoid patrols? Average patroller is probably not happy to be traipsing thru the woods, would make noise, not be well trained, etc.

How badly are your characters wanted in the first 1/5 of book? That drives the answer to a lot of the above. A sentence or two of handwaving are all that are needed unless they have a huge bounty on their heads or something.

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There's not much of a bounty on them yet, but I'll make sure I have a better idea of what the roads are like as I write. –  kriseli Mar 10 at 16:56

No I think you're over thinking it. Why would the regime need to secure every last patch of land when they could just secure their own buildings and actual assets? Maybe they have scouts which could add an element of suspense, but in a vast forest there's no guarantee they'd always be effective in spotting intruders.

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I definitely am over thinking it, especially with all the responses I've gotten. I'll think about that scouts idea. –  kriseli Mar 10 at 16:41

How does controlling an area work in the real world? Governments that want to control a wild area usually cut an aisle through the forest and patrol and watch that. For example no one much cares how many people travel through the woods to the left or right of a country's border, but they stop anyone who tries to cross. Transfer this principle to the inland. It's completely unnecessary to watch every square metre of an area, all you do is watch its circumference and who goes in or out. And since roads are in fact aisles between sections of woodland, it is enough to closely watch the roads. Everyone who leaves the road and enters the forest, will eventually have to come out on some road somewhere. As the government in your country, I would keep my troops out of the woods and have them watch every inch of every road, by camera, troops, satellite, drones, photosensors with spring guns etc., and maybe even fence it it.

So your characters will be perfectly safe and alone in the woods, but they will have a very hard time getting in and out.

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