What do you have to Beware of? Is it the big bad wolf or the big black bat or the ides of March or, perhaps, maybe, of the stranger standing at the corner of your street. It might be of those marked by society, of those that have a strange look in their eyes, their way of walking, the aesthetics that surrounds them as they could be terrorist, weirdoes, insane. Traits that make them perfect candidates for the phrase “Beware of”.
It means to be cautious or careful which takes its origins from a phrase of warning be ware (1150-1200). They are not meant for fear; it is a warning to those spoken to or to those who read the words. It has nothing to do with fear only caution, even though fear can be near. In a story the characters might ignore the warning, those in our favorite stories, or just by chance or destiny be encountered with that they have to beware of. And that, for us readers, is a delight. For we wish, no we want them to be face to face with it. We need the action, to feel the fear that brings them close to danger or that put them in a position that moves the storyline. Also, we need them there, how else are we going to put a face to that we made a mental picture of when we read the warning of danger?
“Beware of” intrigues us as readers and moves the story taking the characters where he/she thought would never go or be. It might even sow the seed of fear in their souls and that of hopelessness, which can make them thrive in adversity when they least expect it or to coward and run to find themselves in far of places.
“Beware of” sets a standard for a compelling story, if done right. It captures the attention of the reader, for they want to know why the characters have to beware of something that at the end might not be or be dangerous.
“Beware of” is meant to keep people away from someplace, someone, or something. In the real world we tell it to our kids: Beware of strangers; in our homes: Beware of dog, beware of the serpentine fence. And of course, they’re much, much more, but we have a choice as the characters in the story have. We choose to hear or ignore the warnings. It is then that the story revolves around the warning and the consequences that come after. Yes, it’s our choice to do or not to do; nonetheless, as writers we push the characters to make a choice. It is then when they grow into major characters, mature and, as we desire, the plot thickens.
So, do you have a memory of those words? Maybe, a story to tell to others to beware of?
PS: Idea of title taken from “A Year of Blogging and Journaling Ideas” EBook by Cynthia Louden