There are writers who disown entire books after they've written them, but sometimes writers like their stories on the whole, but feel a twinge of regret over one a small (or not-so-small) detail. Here are a few decisions that the writers, in hindsight, wished they had thought through a little better.
Spoilers for various stories ahead.
1. J.K. Rowling: Hermione and Ron's marriage. Fans who were a bit perplexed that Hermione Granger ended up marrying Ron Weasley got a bit of vindication when Rowling revealed back in February that the pair weren't a plausible couple. The Sunday Times reported:
"I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment," she admitted. "That's how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron."
She went on to say Harry would have been a better match. Rowling has also said that, after killing all those characters in all of those books, there is one minor character that she regrets marking for death.
2. George R.R. Martin: Tyrion's acrobatics in A Game of Thrones. When Tyrion visits Winterfell, he has a physical prowess we don't in the later books. The early Tyrion jumps from a high gate, somersaulting to the ground, and it's one of the few parts of his expansive books that Martin regrets. In a 2012 interview, Martin explained:
Ahm... Wait... What would I like to change? Well, I might like to change the scene where Tyrion Lannister is first introduced; the scene where Tyrion jumps from the top of a gate; it isn't possible. By then I had very few references about people of his condition and it was later when I came to know more extended details about his physical challenges. So that's one of the things I would change
3. Alan Moore: Paralyzing Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. The Killing Joke is a comic that still makes a lot of fans of the Barbara Gordon's Batgirl cringe. The Joker shoots Barbara Gordon, damaging her spine, not because she's Batgirl, but because she's the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, whom the Joker is hoping to drive mad.
Moore has repudiated his DC works, and The Killing Joke is no exception, but he has specifically said that he went too far with Barbara Gordon's injury. The most shocking interview he's given on the subject is in 2006 with Wizard Magazine, where he revealed just how his editor gave him the greenlight:
I asked DC if they had any problem with me crippling Barbara Gordon - who was Batgirl at the time - and if I remember, I spoke to Len Wein, who was our editor on the project ... [He] said, 'Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.' It was probably one of the areas where they should've reined me in, but they didn't.
Later writers have been able to make lemonade from narrative lemons, however, transforming Barbara Gordon into Oracle.
4. Robert Kirkman: Cutting of Rick's hand in The Walking Dead comic. Okay, it's not exactly a regret, since Kirkman says he wouldn't go back and change it if he could, but he has said that, as cool a moment as it was, having the Governor cut off Rick's hand in the comics has become a bit of a pebble in his shoe. After all, now he has to figure out how Rick performs small tasks like buttoning his shirt or opening a can. Kirkman has admitted that he didn't think through the consequences of cutting off Rick's hand.
Kirkman has said that it's fine in the comics because it's a static medium, but he thinks the TV Rick should keep his hand.
Kirkman does have professional regrets that he would prefer to change. For one thing, he regrets killing off Marvel's Freedom Ring, at one point saying:
If I had it to do all over again... I wouldn't kill him. I regret it more and more as time goes on. I got rid of what?[sic] 20% of the gay characters at Marvel by killing off this ONE character. I just never took that stuff into consideration while I was writing.
And, although he didn't write the episode, he also regrets the revelations that came out the CDC episode of The Walking Dead. He felt that it gave too much away about the state of the world.
5. J.R.R. Tolkien: Calling any of his characters "Elves." It's hardly a surprise that the linguist Tolkien has a regret that's less about story than semantics. But Tolkien was concerned not just with how the story appeared in his own head, but also how it appeared in readers' heads. One of the problems, Tolkien felt, was with the Elves.
When Tolkien called one of his races "Elves," he was not thinking of small, slender, point-eared people of contemporary folklore, but of tall, legendary beings. In a 1954 letter to Hugh Brogan (numbered Letter 151), Tolkien writes:
Also, I now deeply regret having used Elves, though this is a word in ancestry and original meaning suitable enough. But the disastrous debasement of this word, in which Shakespeare played an unforgiveable part, has really overloaded it with regrettable tones, which are too much to overcome.
Tolkien would sometimes rewrite his books for later editions. Most famously, he rewrote the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter of The Hobbit so that Gollum would be more aggressive, as he had been corrupted by the One Ring. He also changed the word "Gnomes" in The Hobbit, which he originally used to refer to certain Elves, but which he felt was mistranslated in readers' minds. The words "Elf" and "Elves" stayed, however.
6. Douglas Adams: Killing everyone off in Mostly Harmless. The fifth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series has a major downer ending when the major characters are brought to Earth just in time for the planet to be destroyed by the Vogons. Adams later decided this ending was far too depressing, the result of a bad year on his part, and announced that he had plans to undo it. In a 1988 interview with Matt Newsome, Adams said:
People have said, quite rightly, that Mostly Harmless is a very bleak book. I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a wrong kind of number; six is a better kind of number.
Adams didn't get to finish that sixth book, so Eoin Colfer undid the Mostly Harmless ending in his own Hitchhiker's book, And Another Thing...
7. J. Michael Straczynski: Making Norman Osborn the father of Gwen Stacy's children. If you thought that Sins Past, the story that reveals that Gwen Stacy fell in love with Norman Osborn and bore him twins, was out of left frakking field, you're not alone. Straczynski himself claims that he hated the idea of Norman and Gwen having kids, and has said that he only went along with the idea because he thought he could retcon it away:
I wanted to retcon the Gwen twins out of continuity, which was something I always assumed I could do at the end of my run. I wasn't allowed to do this, and yes, it pissed me off.
He hoped that he could undoing during the One More Day arc. But what if Norman Osborn didn't want that particular retcon?
8. Vince Gilligan: Killing the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files. It somehow seems fitting that one of Vince Gilligan's big regrets from The X-Files comes from an episode titled "Jump the Shark." After The Lone Gunmen spinoff show was cancelled, Fox refused to let the conspiracy-loving trio back on The X-Files. So writers Gilligan, John Shiban, and Frank Spotnitz ended up killing them off. Fans were distraught, and in the end, the writers weren't thrilled with the decision either.
In The Complete X-Files, Gilligan told Chris Knowles and Matt Hurwitz, "I still think we made the wrong choice on that one." Spotnitz was a bit softer on the decision, saying:
I can't say I regret killing them off, as you know, no one really dies in The X-Files [...] But I do feel tonally it was a mistake to end the episode on such a somber note. I wish we'd ended it on a laugh or smile.
9. David Lynch and Mark Frost: Revealing Laura Palmer's killer in Twin Peaks. This is another decision that came not from the creators themselves, but in part because of network pressures. David Lynch actually didn't want to solve Laura Palmer's murder at all, leaving it as a thread throughout the entire series (though he did say that maybe they could reveal the murderer in the final episode). Mark Frost, however, felt they had an obligation to their audience to eventually solve the crime.
Eventually, they caved to network pressures to reveal the killer, but the show went off the rails for the writers without a similarly impactful moment in the second season. Lynch always maintained that solving the crime so early in the series was a mistake, and Frost eventually came around more to Lynch's line of thinking, saying decades later:
I had to kind of forge a compromise [between Lynch and the network]. I'm not sure that David wasn't right. Maybe we shouldn't have solved the mystery. Let it drift on into the background and churn up more incidents as you went forward.
10. Sam Raimi: The tree rape in The Evil Dead. It's one of those scenes that people single out, and usually not in a favorable way. "This is a great movie...except for that tree rape scene." And while some viewers have defended the moment, and find it entertaining, director and writer Sam Raimi ultimately regrets including it.
I think it was unnecessarily gratuitous and a little too brutal. And finally because people were offended in a way that I didn't...my goal is not to offend people. It is to entertain, thrill, scare...make them laugh but not to offend them.
Of course, Raimi would rework the film with Evil Dead II. Then again, Raimi says that if he went back and redid any of his movies, he would do everything differently.