Hunchback of Notre Dame

A Writer’s Inspiration

notre-dame_paris-france_angel-and-shadow_img_5097In 2014 my husband and I spent an amazing week in Paris. Our quaint hotel was just around the corner from Notre Dame Cathedral. We were so mesmerized with the ancient beauty and deeply reverent atmosphere that we kept returning to learn more and attend vespers with the local French people.

On one of those visits, as I was leaving the Cathedral I happened to look up into the alcove above the massive doors. Light fell across an angel statue perched on the high ledge and cast a distinct shadow on the side wall.  The silhouette looked exactly like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I stopped, put fingers to lips, and gasped—was this the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s most famous character?

Seeing that shadow made a lasting impression and has become the inspiration for looking at the world around me differently. I’ve become a ‘note-aholic’—or perhaps a true writer—because writers must be able to see beyond the surface of what’s happening around them and take note of interesting facts, scenes, and people for possible development later.

Stephen King found the inspiration for his first successful novel, Carrie, working as a summer janitor at a high school.

Edgar Allan Poe’s inspiration for his dark, most well known poem, The Raven, was a real raven his friend Charles Dickens kept as a pet. Poe was fascinated with the intelligent, aggressive bird that spoke like a parrot and used it as his muse, changing its oft repeated phrase “nobody” to “Nevermore”.

J.K. Rowling’s inspiration came from a train ride:

“It was 1990. My then boyfriend and I had decided to move up to Manchester together. After a weekend’s flat-hunting, I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.

I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…

I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.

Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.”

Simple everyday life is filled with all kinds of writing inspirations and possibilities. I’m most excited about the little “aha!” thoughts that pass through my brain like “that would be a great name for an antagonist.” Now I make a note of it.

An NPR news story about the increasing population of giant pythons in Florida was my inspiration for the blog post Boa Constrictors and Pythons. Then as I was sorting through old photos to find that great pic of my Dad with the snake, I came across pictures of Zoe with her bunnies which reminded me of our rabbit adventures. They were quickly turned into another post.

I’m no longer concerned about finding topics for the remaining letters of the alphabet for the second half of this A to Z Blog Challenge.

All I have to do is pay attention to the world around me—and let the inspiration roll….


5 thoughts on “Hunchback of Notre Dame

  1. Wow you wrote this the day before the conference and it’s exactly what Virginia and Anne talked about. Finding your story through things around you or headlines in a newspaper. Oooh you’re good!


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