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Years ago, for my sins, I was a grad student teaching freshman composition at a large university. One day, I was cornered after class by a student to whom I had given a B+ on her most recent essay. She wanted to know why, if I hadn’t marked off any errors on the essay, I hadn’t given it an A. I explained that as far as I was concerned, an essay required something more than just technical proficiency to lift it out of the “B” range and up to an “A”.

A stricken expression came over her face. “You mean I have to be interesting, too?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m afraid you do.”

Needless to say, for fiction writing at the publishable level, this truth is not just doubled, it’s squared.  Maybe even cubed.

I forget exactly what they were calling the freshman English writing class that year — Introduction to Rhetoric, it may have been. The name of the course changes from year to year and school to school, but when you lift up the hood and look at what’s inside, it’s still freshman composition underneath.