2023-10-31: CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE progress re­port

(This post was orig­i­nal­ly planned to go up on Pa­tre­on. How­ev­er, Pa­tre­on’s lim­it­ed for­mat­ting op­tions would not have al­lowed me to in­clude some crit­i­cal parts of the ar­ti­cle, such as the in­line au­dio clips, so I de­cid­ed to post it here in­stead. I think it’s fit­ting: these up­dates are for my sup­port­ers, and if you’re read­ing this at all, that prob­a­bly in­cludes you, whether or not you’re among the peo­ple who gen­er­ous­ly do­nate to me ev­ery month to keep these projects on track.)

Three and a half months ago, I es­ti­mat­ed that chap­ter 1 of CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE would take about a month and a half to fin­ish. Even ac­count­ing for the old adage that when­ev­er a de­vel­op­er sets an ETA, you should ex­pect it to take twice as long, we’re still a few weeks over­due! What hap­pened?


If you read the abortive com­ic ver­sion of CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE, you might re­call that the open­ing scene fea­tures a brief snip­pet of a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Aster and Se­lené (née Se­lene) es­tab­lish­ing a few ex­pec­ta­tions about the na­ture of the sto­ry. This scene is a fram­ing de­vice: it lasts for a to­tal of five com­ic pages be­fore we smash cut to fo­cus on an­oth­er char­ac­ter, Nathan Small, who will be the sub­ject of the first ma­jor plot arc with­in this uni­verse.

CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE is now, as it was then, in­tend­ed to be an en­sem­ble se­ries: there are a num­ber of char­ac­ters who will share the pro­tag­o­nist spot­light over its run, each with their own most­ly self-con­tained sto­ry arcs. By de­sign the se­ries is open end­ed: it will run un­til I’m out of tidy lit­tle arcs to write.

For ex­am­ple: I al­ready know that Nathan’s sto­ry will con­sist of a num­ber of en­tire chap­ters all on its own. I’ve been de­vel­op­ing the con­cept for his sto­ry for lit­er­al­ly sev­en-plus years (ev­er since the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of a cer­tain oth­er we­b­com­ic fea­tur­ing a cer­tain oth­er Nathan). I’m very ex­cit­ed about it: it’s “The Good Stuff” from top to bot­tom, and should serve as a great first run through the uni­verse of CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE. That’s why I wast­ed no time get­ting there in the com­ic ver­sion.

This is where the na­ture of the road­block be­gins to come in­to fo­cus.

The tex­ture of an “up­date” in this pseu­do-vis­ual nov­el sto­ry­telling for­mat is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from that of a we­b­com­ic. An in­di­vid­u­al up­date con­sists of a huge amount of sto­ry con­tent com­pared to the old week­ly or bi­week­ly post­ings of in­di­vid­u­al com­ic pages. That’s just how I like it! But it al­so leaves that orig­i­nal open­ing scene with Aster and Se­lené in a bit of a weird spot. It doesn’t re­al­ly be­long to the same chap­ter as Nathan’s sto­ry, but it’s way too short to ex­ist as its own up­date in this new for­mat.

Yet the scene is load-bear­ing. Though not of­ten in the spot­light, Aster is the clos­est thing to a “main char­ac­ter” CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE has, and their sto­ry is the fram­ing de­vice from which all of the oth­er char­ac­ters’ sto­ries de­part, and to which they in­evitably re­turn.

So, I fig­ured, “Well, I can just pad this scene out in­to about ten thou­sand words and have it serve as a stand­alone pro­logue chap­ter for the whole se­ries.” Lit­er­al­ly what could go wrong? Lit­er­al­ly.

I spent the first, like, two months of this de­vel­op­ment cy­cle dis­card­ing ver­sions of chap­ter 1 that just did not work. It was re­al­ly, re­al­ly bor­ing. I thought to my­self that the pri­ma­ry con­cern of this chap­ter would be es­tab­lish­ing ev­ery­thing the read­er needs to know about the uni­verse. That way, in the fu­ture where there are mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent sto­ry arcs that a new read­er might be in­ter­est­ed in read­ing, they could start with this first chap­ter as an on-ramp, and then jump ahead to the stuff they’re most ex­cit­ed about. This isn’t a ter­ri­ble idea, but it put me in the mind­set that this chap­ter 1 would be — had to be — al­most en­tire­ly ex­po­si­tion.

I wasn’t, like, par­tic­u­lar­ly ex­cit­ed to write a bunch of ex­po­si­tion. Ex­po­si­tion is not The Good Stuff.

Here’s some ad­vice: there’s no way to write 10,000 words that you’ve al­ready de­cid­ed are not The Good Stuff, and have the re­sult of that process be The Good Stuff. The Good Stuff does not mag­i­cal­ly come in­to ex­is­tence as a re­ward for do­ing your due dili­gence and writ­ing a bunch of clever words. If it’s not The Good Stuff, it’s just not The Good Stuff!

As an­noyed as I am that it took this long, these are lessons I’m hap­py to have learned. I gave the sto­ry a soft re­set and tack­led it again, with­out pre­con­ceived no­tions of what was “sup­posed” to go here in this part of the plot. The re­sult is a way stronger take on chap­ter 1 that I’m ac­tu­al­ly ex­treme­ly in­to, con­tain­ing a tidy ver­ti­cal slice of CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE’s themes and gim­micks. I’d like to have got­ten here faster, but here we are — I hope that the wait will have been worth it.

As of this writ­ing, I’ve just fin­ished the penul­ti­mate draft of this new ver­sion. In the next month I’ll take it to the fi­nal draft, work on the il­lus­tra­tions, and — the hope is — have it pub­lished be­fore the year is out.

es­say over: now for some bits i can post

I want to say that the one part of this project that has been go­ing su­per smooth­ly is the mu­sic. Who knows why, but I just nev­er get as caught up in the weeds with mu­sic as I some­times do with art and writ­ing. Now that I have some ex­pe­ri­ence with com­pos­ing for CURSE/​KISS/​CUTE un­der my belt, I can con­fi­dent­ly say that it’s to­tal­ly re­al­is­tic for me to gen­er­ate the amount of mu­sic each month that this project re­quires (which is not a huge amount!).

In no par­tic­u­lar or­der, here are some fin­ished tracks from the up­com­ing chap­ter:

A melody that might play when the ti­tle ap­pears

A song that might play dur­ing a night out in the City of Mon­sters

A song that might play when a cow­girl ap­pears

A song that might play in re­sponse to a Stunt

A song that might play dur­ing a chase scene


any­way thanks for read­ing hap­py hal­loween!!!!!!!!

(A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle was live for about two hours which in­clud­ed sam­ples of unfinished writ­ing along with the tracks of mu­sic from the scenes in which they ap­peared. It made me feel weird­ly vul­ner­a­ble, so I re­moved them. This is hard to ex­plain, but there’s a rea­son the back of a DVD box has screen­shots of the movie and the back of a book doesn’t have screen­shots of the book, right? I hate show­ing un­fin­ished work: I hate show­ing that work de­void of con­text even more: when it comes to prose, be­yond the oc­ca­sion­al quotable pas­sage, I think that writ­ing sam­ples can be both per­fect­ly good and per­fect­ly in­suf­fi­cient for con­vey­ing what the sto­ry is or whether it’s worth your while, so I took them out. If you saw them and you liked them, that rips, though.)