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  • Writer's picturekelseydaleyart

The making of Litelan.

Part One: Before the Storm

When I was a little school child in rural Ontario I often daydreamed of far-off worlds, swords and magic with epic battles. I wanted to drown myself in the pages of books, but I was always told my reading was lower than it should be, or that my writing wasn’t where it needed to be for my age. So, I chose art (I was still punished for that but what else can you do in a catholic school), but I still wrote in the margin of my school notes, specifically the ones teachers weren’t going to see.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first read The Hobbit, I know it led me to Eragon and away from the Warrior Cat books that I had amassed at a young age. But for me, the Hobbit and Eragon were what woke up that little sword fighter in me that wanted to go on adventures and fight and ride dragons. I built huts in the woods out of sticks to practice my survival skills to know how to better write that. Then it happened, an unpopular book, you probably wouldn’t know it.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

Written by a proud daughter of Ares

This book changed my life. It changed my trajectory in life. I wrote fanfiction on paper and notebooks that have been lost to time, and a few moves. I drew more, shipped and started a small tumbler account. But that’s not all this series of books did for me. It opened my eyes to history and research. I watched ancient Greek, and world war documentaries with my dad and read more books and learned more myths that I hadn’t read in fairy tale books. Slowly, and with a helpful love of marvel and DC comics, I was introduced to the world of Norse myths and witty characters (Comic Flash forever).

With this book behind me I began writing something of my own. It was called The Power of Two, and don’t even ask me where it was published, I think it was called Quotev but I honestly don’t remember. I had found the world of but in my young mind I was also under the impression that it was only for fanfiction, and I wasn’t publishing that. But this story, The Power of Two, was an important step in my worldbuilding journey. I wrote without thinking of the world the story took place in. I had little thought for the people, the magic, the world's history, what the currency was like or even the land. At the time the world was called Kantar, because the world looked like a horse... that was the extent of my worldbuilding.

There is no pictures of this map... thank the Mother.

Slowly Kantar expanded. It changed and the world formed in the margins of math notes and loose scraps of paper between the lines of Percy Jackson Fanfiction. Then, after far too many lost pages, I bought a small red notebook from Chapters in the winter months of 2013 and started writing in it while working at a small uninsulated farmers market. While freezing I penned the first worldbuilding note. The history of the Faye family, later I expanded it after being introduced to Game of Thrones.

More researching, more planning, but I still wasn’t writing. That is till I began rewriting The Power of Two, which at this stage I was writing on one of the first iPads so you can believe the spelling was horrible and the grammar was non-existent. But it was mine. Something I was proud of, even if I kept going back and changing things in my notes and republishing chapters.

But that happiness was ending as high school was ending and college was starting. I had been planning to continue with art and go into animation. My school councillor was still not pleased with the idea as she saw it as a waste of my time, but I was still to pour of a writer to make it anywhere in that regard either. So, I chose art, and focused on creating the character in this world I had been scribbling for years. I moved out and my dad bought me a laptop, my very own laptop, not something I had to share with my siblings or my iPad that could only handle so much. Finally, I had moved out, I had my own time to be creative and no one to tell me that I was wasting my time, no one to push me down, just people to lift me up.

If there's anything you take from this rambling, surround yourself with people who will lift you, not say yes to you.

I had a tablet, photoshop and word. It was all the power I needed in the world. I created a map, Kingdoms, cities, towns that had become forgotten, but by now the world had evolved. The world of Theoria had been given life, history and power. My most influential histories had been written, The Faye and Archuleta families that hailed from the northern Kingdom.

This was the start of something big, but unfortunately school and work had taken priority, yo girl gotta eat. For years, Theoria had taken a back seat and nearly faded away, I was just too busy to put the appropriate amount of work into it to iron it out. My skill wasn’t there, and I wasn’t doing well mentally. By the end of my first program, I was in a super dark place, my friends had moved on to animation and I took a year off to figure myself out a little. This dark place did result in my best work, not that I would recommend anyone put themselves at rock bottom for character development but that was this act called for. I drafted The Power of Two, now called Kingdom of Shadows, as a webcomic and put a whole summer's worth of time into character design and progressing the story and the world. It wasn’t great, I was still super busy with two jobs and a relationship, but I still have lots of little scribbles from then and a lot of the ideas are still at play in this current rendition of Litelan. It was at this time I began to also pen out the idea of a boy who would be king, type of story. My old notes only called it, The Avian Project. Very cryptic past me.

Yeah, can't find anything from this time either.

I went back to school and took something I never thought I would really love. But turns out Concept Art is in everything. Once again, I put my story on the back burner for school and work, but this time I was in luck. The second term was about creating an idea, something to pitch to a studio. I had to think of my world as a video game and you would not believe how much that helped simplify my magic system. Before there were summoners and crystal wielders and some people who could connect to gods and others who connected to dragons. There was no rhyme or reason to the system. In a video game, the character has three to five skills, unless you're playing WOW or Final Fantasy but most of the time you have as many skills as someone can reach on a keyboard. And so, the magic became simpler, yet still distinctive. Characters had to stand out from no magical NPCs, so I changed their eye colour. Now, depending on the video game there is not much to see, but in a game like Fire Emblem it becomes evident who is the magic user and who isn’t.

We also had to create a map, a world map and the concept for a playable map location, think Overwatch playable maps. This was the first time I really thought about the cities in what the character would see. What the stonework was like of what the religious statues looked like. After finishing that program, the colleges went on strike and I took a year to work, save money and write. I wasn’t story writing by this point, I was diving headfirst into worldbuilding, I was reading all that I could afford and found so many YouTube channels on writing and world building. I learned more from them about writing than I ever did from any high school teacher. By this point I dropped The Kingdom of Shadows story and began working on The Avian Project, that by this point seemed like a simpler story to write. Oh, how wrong past me was.

My last program in college taught me many important things about connected art, about patience in storytelling and in growing your ideas by failing fast. Or ‘Killing your babies’ as one proff always put it. But the methods stuck. And here in my final year of schooling I had written the ending to The Avian Project. Which finally had a name, The Lost Prince, not a very good name but a name, nonetheless. Finally, the storm had arrived. The final project was an eight comic panels story that had a beginning, middle and end. I had twelve pages, and even though the story had an end, it was just the beginning for me. I had a map, I had a world with gods and histories far older than any of the living characters. And as I geared up to graduate six months before the world shut down, I was full of hope that this would turn into something I could show people on a higher level. This small idea that I had poured years of work into, building my skill and my confidence back, finally I could make it something more than crazy ideas in my head.

At the start of the pandemic, two weeks into the world shutting down and my income become unstable, I was thrown into my darkest pit since 2016. In that darkness, that turmoil, I started writing. Finally, The Storm at Dawn had begun to take shape, but it started a whole other series of challenges for me that I didn't realise till much later on.

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