The protagonist survived death–the Ultimate Test. It’s time for a deep breath, a moment of clarity and reflection. The protagonist sits down–in some cases, literally–and considers all that has happened.

This is where it gets tricky! The writer has several story options, depending on the story she wants to tell. We’ll take these options one at a time.

1. Objective obtained, flaw corrected, all is well

Brody obtained objective: he killed the shark. And most importantly, he has corrected his flaw.

In Act One, Brody was afraid to take a stand against the mayor, even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Brody’s flaw? He was spineless, would not take responsibility and do the right thing.

In fighting Jaws, Brody asserted himself, acted courageously and did what had to be done, as daunting a task as it was.

Also, Brody was once afraid of the water. Objective obtained and flaw corrected, there’s nothing for Brody to do but swim home–a hero.

2. Objective obtained, flaw corrected, but something’s not right

Carl parks his house at the top of Paradise Falls: objective obtained. But something’s wrong.

In this scenario, the protagonist is successful but unsatisfied. Carl’s interior monologue might be, “Why did I do it?” or “Is this all there is?”

The protagonist realizes, having corrected the flaw, that obtaining the objective is not enough.I

This approach to storytelling is, arguably the most satisfying, the protagonist turns his back on his objective.

Understanding the greater good, the protagonist chooses to leave the objective behind and do the right thing. The objective is sacrificed in the name of selflessness or a higher calling.

Similarly, in Casablanca, Rick gives up the love of his life, because . . . “The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans.”

3. Objective not obtained, flaw corrected

In Kramer vs. Kramer, Ted loses custody of his son. This is a crippling defeat. But Ted has corrected his flaw, which is illustrated in the supportive and mature way he deals with bad news.

The protagonist survives the Ultimate Test, but does not obtain the objective. He’s unsuccessful, but, in the face of defeat, he confirms that the flaw is corrected.