Unit 3 Overview: Introduction to Longer Fiction and Drama

4 min readjanuary 6, 2023

Minna Chow

Minna Chow

AP English Literature 📚

145 resources
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Welcome to Unit 3: Introduction to Longer Fiction and Drama! In this unit, we’ll be looking at longer works: full length plays, for example, or novels. 
In this unit, you’ll build on the skills you’ve learned in Unit 1 (and to a lesser extent Unit 2).
Indeed, Longer Fiction and Drama share many similarities with Short Fiction: generally speaking, both formats track characters over time, both have plots that evolve and conflict to work through…
According to Edith Wharton, the biggest difference between the two mediums is that short stories tend to be more about the situation the characters find themselves in whereas longer works of fiction can focus on how the characters change over time. It's worth taking a second to ask yourself: Could this novel have been a short story? Could this play have happened in one act? Why or why not? This will help you understand why you're reading a 200 page novel instead of a 20 page short story, and what that does to the story being told as a result.
Study Tip: Short stories, novels, dramas… all of these formats have been reimagined. These guides are meant to give a general overview of these formats, but you’ll find plenty of written works that prove exceptions to the rule.

Why is this Unit Important?

It’s important to be able to analyze longer fiction and drama because they’re the backbone of many college-level English classes (if you’re interested in studying in that department).
More immediately, you’ll be tested on these skills directly on the AP Test. One FRQ will ask you to not only analyze a work, but analyze it from memory.
Before you panic, note that you get to choose any longer piece of fiction you want, and that you won’t be asked to directly quote from it or list specific details. This question mainly tests your analysis skills, which we'll be covering in these guides.
So, how should we start? Let’s take a look at what we’ll be covering in this Unit. 

3.1 Interpreting character description and perspective

Important Skill: Identify and describe what specific textual details reveal about a character, that character’s perspective, and that character’s motives.
3.1 covers how to analyze characters based on what the text tells us about them. 
Characters can describe themselves, can be described by other people, and can be described by an omnipotent narrator. Characters can also be characterized by what they do, what they say, what they wear… It’s a big topic. 

3.2 Character evolution throughout a narrative

Important Skill: Explain the function of a character changing or remaining unchanged.
3.2 covers character evolution. In longer works, you’ll often see characters changing over time as they go through the events described in the plot. However, not all characters change. In this guide, we’ll explain what some of these changes are and what it means. 

3.3 Conflict and plot development

Important Skill: Identify and describe specific textual details that convey or reveal a setting.
Important Skill: Explain the function of conflict in a text.
3.3 covers conflict and plot development: in other words, the driving forces of most novels. Conflict, or the clash between two opposing forces, can lead to plot development. Generally what you’ll find is that at the end of a story, something’s changed from the beginning. Conflict and plot development are what drive this change along, and being able to understand what the conflict is and how the plot develops is key to understanding the story.

3.4 Interpreting symbolism

Important Skill: Explain the function of a significant event or related set of significant events in a plot.
3.4 covers some ways to recognize symbolism in literary works, and why it matters. Symbolism can be used to tie a work to larger cultural contexts or express complex ideas in a more direct way. 

3.5 Identifying evidence and supporting literary arguments

Important Skill: Develop a paragraph that includes 1) a claim that requires defense with evidence from the text and 2) the evidence itself.
Important Skill: Develop a thesis statement that conveys a defensible claim about an interpretation of literature and that may establish a line of reasoning.
Important Skill: Develop commentary that establishes and explains relationships among textual evidence, the line of reasoning, and the thesis.
Important Skill: Select and use relevant and sufficient evidence to both develop and support a line of reasoning.
Important Skill: Demonstrate control over the elements of composition to communicate clearly.
3.5 is about how to take all the skills you’ve been working on in this Unit and express them in written format. If you’ve been writing essays to analyze short fiction, expect to use the same skills here. 
And all this just to start analyzing longer works? Well, let’s get to it!
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🧐Exam Review – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
📝Exam Review - Poetry Analysis Essay
📕Exam Review – Short Fiction FRQ
🎭Unit 3 – Intro to Longer Fiction & Drama
⚔️Unit 4 – Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
🛠️Unit 6 – Literary Techniques in Longer Works
🏛️Unit 7 – Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction

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