The protagonist is the central figure of a story (e.g. anecdote, novel), and is often referred to as the story's main character. The story follows and is chiefly concerned with the protagonist (or, sometimes, a small group of protagonists). Often the story is told from the protagonist's point of view; even when not in first-person narrative, the protagonist's attitudes and actions are made clear to the reader or listener to a larger extent than for any other character.

The protagonist is, it should be pointed out, not always the hero of the story. Many authors have chosen to unfold a story from the point of view of a character who, while not central to the action of the story, is in a position to comment upon it. However, it is most common for the story to be "about" the protagonist; even if the protagonist's actions are not heroic, they are nonetheless usually vital to the progress of the story.

The protagonist is often faced with a "foil"; that is, the character who most represents or creates obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. This character is known as the antagonist; as with protagonists, there may be more than one antagonist in a story.

In the novel Snow Crash Neal Stephenson chose to name the primary character Hiro Protagonist.