For a while, J.R.R. Tolkien was planning on naming the protagonist of The Lord of the Rings Bingo, son of Bilbo Baggins. Frodo Took might have been the name of one of his companions. Tolkien switched names a lot during the early stages of writing LotR, so almost all characters in the Fellowship went through multiple names.
There are far too many of these to mention in the new History of Middle-earth series. Perhaps the most radical are that Tol Eressëa was going to be England, Farmer Maggot and Treebeard were going to be villains, and Aragorn was going to be a badass hobbit called Peregrin Boffin (alias "Trotter") who had been tortured in Mordor, or else a Future Badass version of Bilbo himself. He wore shoes (very unusual for a hobbit) and one proposed explanation was that he had wooden feet as a result of his real feet having been sawn off by his tormentors.
Another one had Boromir surviving the Breaking of the Fellowship, but then doing a Face Heel Turn and joining Saruman in the attack on Minas Tirith. (This was before the Rohan subplot was conceived.)
Pippin was supposed to die. It was CS Lewis, who read the manuscript before the book was published, who objected and insisted that Tolkien let Pippin live. So instead of being crushed to death by the troll at the Black Gates, Pippin just gets a little squished and is saved by Gimli.
The character of Arwen was introduced very late in the game. Originally Aragorn was to marry Éowyn, then Tolkien decided Éowyn should die and Aragorn never marry because he didn't get over his grief. Tolkien's wife convinced him not to kill Éowyn, so Arwen came into being. (This is part of why her and Aragorn's story is included in the Appendices rather than the book itself.) This created a fair amount of Fan Wank even when the books first came out, with some wishing he'd married Éowyn as originally planned.
Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling planned to kill off Arthur Weasley in the final book after she put off killing him in Order of the Phoenix. (A remnant of this can be seen in the attack on him by Voldemort, which he survives. Rowling's reported outburst into tears over the character killed in this book may have actually been over Arthur, and in the end she couldn't bring herself to do it.) She changed her mind, "making up for it" by killingLupin and Tonks instead.
Among the highlights of what Rowling cut from the series are a dandy named Pyrites working for Voldemort, Sirius in dog form being "adopted" by an eccentric dog-lover (replaced by him hiding out in a cave), Mafalda, a horrible cousin of the Weasley family who was to be sorted in Slytherin (replaced by Rita Skeeter), and Hermione's last name being "Puckle".
Jo'd said before Deatly Hallows that someone would do magic for the first time late in life, but then she changed her mind, and it didn't happen. Also, in the interview with TLC/Mugglenet after the release of Book 6, she said Grindelwald was dead. In Book 7, it turned out he wasn't.
In the earliest draft of the first chapter, the Potters lived on an island and Hermione's family, living on the mainland, saw an explosion out at sea and discovered the bodies of Harry's parents.
Also, in Jo's website one of the Easter Eggs shows an alternate plotline for Book 1, where Harry's parents had apparently stolen the Philosopher's Stone, which partly explains why the Potters were so rich.
Also from Book 1, Dean Thomas (called Gary back then) was with the Trio and Neville when they found Fluffy.
Dean/"Gary" actually was going to have his own subplot. Apparently his biological father was actually a wizard killed for refusing to join Voldemort; Dean's mother, however, just thought he abandoned her. This gets briefly alluded to in Book 7, but J.K. abandoned most of this back story in favor of Neville's, which ties in closer to Harry's story.
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was almost the title of the second book. It later became the title of the sixth book. Rowling's comments on this imply she had originally intended to use the Half-Blood Prince's book plotline in the second book, but moved it forward when she found it didn't fit very well into that book's plot.
Hermione was planned to have a younger, Muggle sister. Eventually JK decided it was too late to introduce her, and Book 7 makes it clear that Hermione is an only child.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them introduced the idea of a "Lethifold", basically a murderous living blanket that would smother its victim and could only be defeated by using a Patronus (making it an obvious foe for Harry, since that's one of his best spells). This was revealed during the long wait for the latter books, and many people expected the Lethifold would show up, but in the end it never did.
In the epilogue of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", J.K. admitted that she wanted Dudley to be at Platform 9 and 3/4 with a magic child. This was nixed, under the pretense that "no magic would survive contact with Vernon Dursley's genes".
When Harry visits the Leaky Cauldron in the first book, it was originally planned that one of the people he met would be a female reporter. Rowling thought the character didn't fit there and moved her to the fourth book, where she eventually developed into Rita Skeeter.
Other titles Rowling considered for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were Harry Potter and the Elder Wand and Harry Potter and the Peverell Quest. She decided against the second one "quite quickly" as she found the word "quest" to be "a bit corny".
Although her initial plans not to kill any of the Power Trio held up, Rowling did consider killing off Ron halfway through the series at one point.
Another huge aborted arc regards Theodore Nott. He's a Slytherin student in Harry's year that basically does nothing in the whole series. Originally, though, a chapter called "Malfoy and Nott" was going to be about Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott talking and discussing the myths between the Death Eaters about The Boy Who Lived. The chapter would present Draco as talking to an equal, as Theodore's blood is as pure as his. Theodore himself was also going to be a recurring character, according to JK he's a quiet student that doesn't get along with the rest of the Slytherin students and that didn't necessarily approve of their ideas. Fanwank has theorized that he could have been a Token Evil Teammate of sorts. For those that felt the Slytherin students were excesively characterized as Always Chaotic Evil, this is a serious wasted plotline, if only to show a Slytherin student that wasn't a complete asshole. JK herself reportedly liked the scene so much and tried to use it both in Chamber of Secrets and later in Goblet of Fire, before finally giving up on it.
The ARG site "Pottermore" is loaded with Rowling's "ghost ideas," pieces of the series' world that she fully considers canon but never found a place to put in the books. Professor McGonagall's surprisingly tragic backstory has gotten one of the biggest fan responses.
Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell originally planned on calling her heroine "Pansy O'Hara", and Tara was "Fontenoy Hall". Other names she had considered for the novel itself were Tote the Weary Load and Tomorrow Is Another Day.
A Song of Ice and Fire: George R.R. Martin originally planned to have a five-year Time Skip between the third and fourth books, which would have had a major effect especially on the several child and teenage characters. In the end, he wasn't able to pull it off. And ironically, there actually was a five year gap between the two books' publication. He lampshades it with Littlefinger complaining (paraphrased) that he "expected five years of peace, at least, before Cersei screwed everything up."
Martin originally planned to wrap things up in three books, with two and three titled "A Dance with Dragons" and "The Winds of Winter," now the titles of books five and six. Toward the end of "Game of Thrones" he realized he was nowhere near any workable ending and pushed it to four books, then skipped over the idea of five and settled on six while writing "Clash of Kings." And then he decided to split his plans for book four between two sets of characters over the same time period when it grew too big for one book, making for a final count of seven.
A "final" count so far. He still has two more books to write.
In Remnants, Tate was supposed to be a lesbian; this was part of the explanation for her drive to protect Tamara from the Baby. This wasn't something that the author decided not to go with; Scholastic wouldn't let her do it. This went over with the fandom about as well as you might think.
Amelia's name was originally "Honey"; Amazon.com's summary for Survival still uses that name, and Scholastic did in the past, as well.
Gormenghast was meant to be seven or so books, but the author died. See the article for details.
David Weber's Honor Harrington was originally going to be timeskipped several decades, following the death of its namesake character. Her children would have continued the action. His Eric Flint collaboration Crown of Slaves nixed this original plan; its espionage plot ended up fast-forwarding the conflict by putting pressure on the Mesans (spoiler probably unnecessary) to enact their plan early. As a happy side effect, Honor was spared, cutting off what would probably have been the greatest fan rebellion in modern Sci-Fi literature.
Larry Niven was planning to write a book for the Known Space verse tentatively called that would have given a definitive end for that universe taking the whole thing "down in flames". Before he'd gotten past a rough outline he came up with the idea for Ringworld and decided to do that instead. Ringworld and the books that followed have invalidated much of the original plans Niven had for the down in flames storyline but a modified version may eventually be written. The outline and Niven's comments about how it ended up getting discarded can be read here.
At the very beginning of his career, Sherlock Holmes was called Sherringford Hope.
And Dr. Watson was Ormond Sacker.
Stella Gibbons was going to call her parody of rural novels Curse God Farm until a friend suggested Cold Comfort Farm instead. When Gibbons demanded to know where she got such a marvelous name from, she confessed it was the name of a real farm in the Midlands. Which goes to show.
And he originally planned that the Noghri were the Sith species, thus literally making Darth Vader, their savior, Dark Lord of the Sith.
Zahn and Stackpole wrote "The Reenlistment of Baron Fel", which started as a six-comic miniseries and was revamped into a four-part story. It's about Ace PilotSoontir Fel, once of the Empire before defecting to the New Republic, getting abducted by Thrawn and joining the Empire of the Hand. They finished both versions, and both of them have both versions. But they haven't been bought and published. They are just sitting on those hard drives. Waiting. This is incredibly frustrating.
The proposed miniseries Spectre of Thrawn, between the two Hand Of Thrawn books. Cowritten, again, by Zahn and Stackpole! And it never happened.
The programme for the 2006 Discworld Convention reveals the synopsis of a completely different The Science of Discworld III, in which the wizards visit assorted alternative Marses, culminating in the Discworld-universe's own version of Barsoom: a flat square planet, on the back of four thoats on the back of a giant zitidar, while Ankh-Morpork was invaded by the Martian tripods. This was abandoned for two reasons: firstly, an alien invasion of the Disc is the sort of thing it's very hard to Snap Back from in time for the next book. Secondly, Barsoom's flavour of Planetary Romance is close enough to Sword and Sorcery that they couldn't figure out how to make a Discly version different.
Apparently Terry Pratchett always deletes his early drafts so literary researchers will have to get real jobs. He did mention in The Art Of The Discworld that Vimes as the viewpoint character was a late addition to the Watch books, which were intended to revolve around Carrot. There was also almost a scene in The Fifth Elephant in which Sybil and Vimes cross paths with Verence and Magrat.
He's also mentioned that an early version of The Truth had the disused well the dwarfs used to mix the ink be the Well of Truth, with interesting results. He eventually decided it was better if the truthfulness of the Times was based on William's beliefs, rather than mystic influences at the printing stage.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory originally ended with the young lad in charge of the world's largest "chocolate shop", selling all manner of things from an egg containing a little sugary bird to a giant chocolate elephant with a chocolate rider. There were also meant to be two extra naughty children, "Marvin Prune", who would have been a conceited boy, and "Miranda Piker", who would have been a girl allowed to do anything she wants - to that end, become a school-obsessed snob. The chapter in which she was dispatched with featured Mr. Wonka making a powder that allowed children to play sick, botching a job with her father to sabotage the machine that made the powder.
Another version had about thirty children, but Dahl's nephew described it as the most boring thing he'd ever read.
The sweet shop ending became the ending to The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me and the sugar bird candy was moved into one of Grandpa Joe's rememberences as the start of the book.
One early version of the story was titled Charlie's Chocolate Boy and depicted Charlie as black. He became coated in chocolate and was taken back to Wonka's house as a present for Wonka's son, but ended up as witness to a burglary, and was rewarded with the sweet shop for catching the thief.
Matilda was also originally conceived as more of a Jerk Ass who deliberately irritates people and plays practical jokes. Some of her pranks were kept in but she became an overall nicer person for the final version.
The child in The BFG was originally going to be a young boy called Jodie, until Dahl changed the character to a girl and named her after his granddaughter Sophie (who later became famous as a supermodel.)
Octavia Butler's Earthseed series was supposed to be a trilogy, but the author passed away before she got to write the third book, which would have continued after the characters leave earth to explore other worlds. One can't help but wonder if they would have encountered the aliens in Butler's Xenogenisis trilogy.
War and Peace was originally going to be about the 1825 Decembrist revolution against Czar Nicolas I, and not the Napoleonic Wars. Ironically, the book ends right as the revolution is about to begin.
Philip K. Dick once proposed to collaborate on a novel... with James Tiptree, Jr. Tiptree, being incredibly secretive, declined, and the eventual product (made with Roger Zelazny) was Deus Irae. Still, it's tempting to wonder what a collaboration between two of the strangest minds ever to grace Speculative Fiction would have turned out to be.
Douglas Adams's original outline follows Arthur (originally named Aleric) and Ford up until they stow away on the Vogon ship in much the same manner as the finished product, but after that, the flow of things in no way resembled what we eventually got. There is no Zaphod, Trillian, or Marvin; instead, Arthur and Ford wander around the Galaxy unaccompanied, trying to survive by taking on a number of odd jobs for a series of eccentric Galactic residents. Most notably, one of their gigs would have involved shrinking down to microscopic size and protecting an alien's bloodstream from attacking parasitic bacteria.
The original radio series was conceived as "The Ends of the Earth", which would have featured Earth being destroyed in different ways at the end of each episode. While developing the first episode Adams decided to focus on the characters he had created and the concept of the Guide.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish originally featured Arthur trying to remember where God's Last Message is by jumping off a cliff so his life would flash before his eyes, thereby realising how all the events of the previous books fitted together, and deliberately heading back to Earth. New characters would include a man with a skill at opening oysters and "a Brockian Ultra-Walrus with an embarassing past". The walrus was largely there simply because there was one on the cover (don't blame the publisher for the cover being done before the book was written, by the way, blame Adams's attitude to deadlines).
One classic example is the infamous Man from Porlock incident. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his famous poem Kubla Khan one morning, having taken a large dose of opium the night before to help himself sleep, then dipping into a text on Kublai Khan and his legendary pleasure dome just before nodding off, and then spending the night in vivid dreams of the Khan and his dome. He awoke with the entire poem outlined in his head, and set to work to write it down. Unfortunately, he didn't complete it - the poem stops at the point where Coleridge was interrupted by an unsolicited caller from the town of Porlock, who was trying to sell him insurance. By the time Coleridge managed to get rid of the man, some time later, the dream, and his inspiration, had gone.
In the original draft of Collodi's Pinocchio, the protagonist died, hanged by the Cat and the Fox. When this version of the novel wasn't approved, the author made Pinocchio survive and added several chapters, changing completely the story's tone. If you didn't read the book, he still gets hanged, but it's only halfway in the story.
In the rough draft of Alice in Wonderland (called Alice's Adventures Underground) their was no "Caucus Race", "Pig and Pepper", "Mad Tea Party" or Cheshire Cat. Titles considered were "Alice Among The Elves", "Alice's Golden Hour", and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" which became the final title.
Through The Looking Glass had a chapter called "The Wasp In The Wig" shelved because illustrator John Tenniel claimed it was impossible to draw. (A draft of this chapter recently resurfaced and has been published in Martin Gardner's annotated edition.)
On the gripping hand, when illustrator Alan Aldridge read about this (in an article in a newspaper that had been used to wrap his fish and chips!), he decided to give the lie to Tenniel's claim. The ultimate result was The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast.
Instead of the Caucus Race being used to dry off Alice and the animals, the Dodo would have lead them all to a nearby cottage he knew of, where they could dry off. As they walked, the Dodo, the Eaglet, the Lory, and Alice all outwalked the others, so they went ahead while leaving the duck to lead the rest. This was based off of a real event that happened on the outing when Carroll first told Alice the story. As they were finishing their boating, it burst out raining and Carroll lead them to a cottage he knew was nearby, where they could dry off. He and the Liddell sisters (Alice, Edith, and L.C.) walked faster than the rest, so they left Canon Duckworth, a member of the group, to lead everyone else there. Carroll eventually used the Caucus Race instead, because he felt that the event he was basing the cottage story off of was too obscure and would only be funny to the circle of people who had been involved.
Twilight was originally only going to have one sequel called Forever Dawn. The basic storyline is the same as what would become the fourth book, Breaking Dawn. Edward and Bella get married, she gets pregnant on the honeymoon, and Bella has to be turned into a vampire to survive the birth of their daughter Renesmee. Jacob isn't present at the birth, but he imprints on Renesmee a few weeks later. The biggest change is that the love triangle of Bella, Edward, and Jacob never develops because the events of New Moon and Eclipse never happen. In short, Edward never leaves and Bella and Jacob don't become close. The lack of the two middle books also leaves Victoria and Laurent alive. Laurent does a Heel Face Turn and Victoria gets one of her minions to tell the Volturi about Renesmee. Victoria is later the only one killed at the final standoff, courtesy of the mostly-unnamed werewolves. The ending is still pretty much the same Happily Ever After as it is in the final version.
Originally, the book was going to be called Forks until Meyer's agent told her to come up with something more atmospheric.
Also, there was gonna be a book called Midnight Sun, which would tell the first book from Edward's viewpoint, but it was scrapped after the first twelve chapters of the manuscript were leaked on the internet. However, Meyer has said she may get around to finishing it eventually.
The enormously popular "Millennium Trilogy" of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest were written by Swedish journalist/activist Stieg Larsson in his off-hours as a way to relax. He only decided to try and get them published after finishing the final draft of Hornet's Nest, then promptly dropped dead of a heart attack. His girlfriend Eva Gabrielsson is in possession of Larsson's computer, which has at least three-fourths of a fourth novel and is rumored to have detailed synopses on the fifth and sixth books as well, though what may come of this is anyone's guess.
The Princess Bride epilogue mentions a sequel called Buttercup's Baby that was having trouble getting published due to "legal issues with S. Morgenstern's (an alias of the real author William Goldman) estate." It was meant to be fake, but a sample chapter does exist which readers could get if they wrote in to the address enclosed in the book. Later editions simply published the sample chapter, and people began clamoring for the full sequel. Goldman never expected The Princess Bride to be so popular, so he hadn't written anything beyond the sample. He has stated that he wants to write the full book, but he's having trouble coming up with ideas for it.
The Mistborn trilogy was originally two unrelated works- one which Brandon Sanderson calls "Mistborn Prime", which introduced the titular magic-using assassins, and "Final Empire Prime", which introduced the After the End setting ruled by a Physical GodEvil Overlord. Not really liking either one, he took what he liked from both and made something completely new. Also, the trilogy's protagonist was originally supposed to be a guy, but Sanderson had a hard time getting a grip on the character- until he turned "him" into a girl, and suddenly Vin really gelled for the first time.
Not confirmed, but fans of the "How Few Remain" series (also known as Timeline-191) have long suspected that Turtledove originally meant for the USA to lose the Great War and end up being the parallel to Weimar and later Nazi Germany rather than the Confederacy. YMMV but there are abolutly some who think this would have made the series more interesting and less Anvilicious.
Dan Abnett has revealed that he lost the text of one of the Gaunt's Ghosts books and had to rewrite it at short notice... and in the process invented the character of Lijah Cuu on the spur of the moment.
There's an in-universe example in Blood Pact, where Tona tells Gaunt that Slaydo's choice between Macaroth and him as succeeding Warmaster was essentially a toss-up and he could have been the new Warmaster. Gaunt tells her to perish the thought.
The Idiot: Dostoevsky initially conceived Prince Myshkin as a proud Villain Protagonist who would have found redemption by the novel's end. Even after deciding to make Myskin the figure of Incorruptible Pure Pureness of the final draft, Dostoevsky's plan for the novel's end continued to fluctuate. The initial plan was for Myskhin to redeem both Nastasya and Rogozhin.
In an earlier version, I imagined something called lij time, which moves much faster or much slower than ordinary time. I had Olus become a lijok, a god who can control lij time. He puts himself and Kezi into fast lij time so that they can be together for many years before her sacrifice.
Chris Fogle apparently knows a sequence of numbers that grant him the power of total concentration when uttered.
The themes of humanity versus technology/tradition versus efficiency/civil service versus corporate profit would be much more fleshed-out, including a contest between Shane Drinion and the latest scanning machine.
A deeper exploration of Meredith's marriage and Blumquist's past.
Animorphs : Originally, K.A.Applegate planned to write a Taxxon Chronicles book, but it never happened. The plot, though, was recyled into the book The Answer.
Similarly, Visser was originally going to cover the careers of both Visser One and Visser Three, which is why the latter appears on the cover.
In its earliest stages, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (now a movie) by Jonathan Safran Foer had nothing at all to do with 9/11. According to the author, however, when his brother read a draft of it and found that the protagonist was afraid of planes and skyscrapers, he asked if it was supposed to be about 9/11.
Bob Shaw died before writing a fourth book in his Wooden Spaceships series. He left the people of Overland in a cliffhanger, in a universe, presumably ours, where Pi is no longer equal to exactly three.
Discussed Trope in The Great Divorce: The Apostate Bishop is working on a paper where he speculates on what Christianity would have been like if Jesus hadn't died on the Cross and lived out his life to a ripe old age.
In the Uglies companion book Bogus to Bubbly, Scott Westerfeld reveals that Extras was originally going to be from the point of view of Aya's brother Hiro, however, he felt that the interesting stuff kept happening to Aya. He includes a draft of the first chapter from Hiro's point of view.
Alternate character names used in early drafts of Les Misérables were Jean Trejean (who became Valjean), Marguerite Louet (Fantine), Anna Louet (Cosette; alouette means lark, as Cosette is referred to), Thomas Telbon (Marius Pontmercy), Chavaroche or Grimebodin (Gavroche), Grangé (Grantaire), Palmyre (Eponine) and Malvina (Azelma.)
Cosette's father was originally to be called Gustave Lebotelier (later renamed to Tholomyès) and to have been made aware of his daughter's identity and marriage to Telbon (Marius.)