The True Story of Teresa Santos

mikey
7 min readJul 16, 2020

Some time ago DevTalk+ (a discord server for visual novel developers) set up a logline challenge, that went like this:

Take your best, funniest, or coolest plot idea, refine it down to its essentials in 1–2 sentences, and send it to us…

I actually didn’t know that “logline” was the proper name for those “headline-style plot extracts” that usually accompany movies to quickly let you know what the thing is all about, get you interested, and set up the mood. You know, the sort of text that begins with “In a world…”

In fact, there are rules, templates and formulas for making good loglines, and in preparation, I have read up on them in great detail. So much so, that I even made a checklist of elements a logline should have, based on all the advice articles and videos.

I did set out on making my own, for a non-existent story, with most likely a movie in mind, but even though I greatly appreciate the never-ending tinkering potential to finding just the right word, I soon found that all my drafts, whether they included dragons, spaceships, or straight up insanity would end up feeling the same. The checklist and the formulas, as fun as they were, made them all feel bit too uniform.

So it may not be surprising that the first idea that genuinely spoke to me was when, perhaps out of exhaustion, I thought of a parody. One of those long Spanish names came to my mind, and I thought that hey by the time you finish reading it you’re out of space for any content, hahaha.

Indeed, my first idea was just “When [Long Spanish Name] realizes…” and I would go through Spanish name lists, stringing together 5, 10, 20 names to try to choose a good variety of sounds and endings, given names and surnames.

But although the idea was always that the gag would indisputably be the main aspect of the logline, I felt like a pure gag like that would (rightfully) have no chance to count at all. It also felt a bit… hollow. I mean a gag is fine, but I really like at least some substance to justify it, or to put it into the right frame.

That’s why… what I actually ended up submitting was this:

Or, to put it simply…

Though demon at night, archaeologist by day Teresa […] Santos never gave up hope, and…

As you can see, even after adding some logline elements, the gag portion is clearly the largest, consistent with the initial idea. It’s supposed to be the first thing that strikes people, and the unfinished “…” at the end is also a remnant of that first idea where it was supposed to mean that we just ran out of space.

The newly added “true” logline elements, well… in order to preserve the dominance of the gag part, they couldn’t be too long, so I knew there and then that I wouldn’t have the space to tick all of the boxes for a good logline. But at least the little I did put in does establish a few things, like:

  • the heroine is an archaeologist by trade (“archaeologist by day”)
  • she turns into a demon by night (“demon by night”)

Next comes the “Though” (a shorter version of “Even though she is” in this case), and the “never lost hope, and…” parts.

They are meant to say that she not only knows she is a demon at night, but also that she is unhappy with that situation, i.e. she never lost hope [to banish the demon]. The last words and unfinished sentence also imply that the “something” she has hoped for is about to happen. In summary then, the logline also establishes that:

  • she looks for a way to banish the demon
  • an opportunity to end her curse is going to present itself soon

It’s not absolutely clear that the two above points are what they are, people may have different interpretations, but I do think the logline at the very least hints at this unresolved inner conflict.

The gag name also fulfills a sort of informational role, in that a long name will typically imply some kind of heritage, or even aristocratic origin. At the very least it should hint at a long family history. So let me also add this one bullet point:

  • the heroine has a long family history

And in theory, that’s all there is to it. A logline that is mainly a gag, but still has a minimum of logline-specific elements to not completely disqualify it from the competition. In my self-assessment, the checklist was looking much better.

But what if there was just a little bit more… In particular, consider the core of the logline sentence, and what stands out.

Though demon at night, archaeologist by day [Teresa … Santos] never gave up hope, and…

There aren’t many words in that core of the logline, and the ones used are fairly common, except two, which are “demon” and “archaeologist”. Their importance is accentuated by one of them being tied to day, and another one to night. In fact, if you take them away, there is almost nothing substantial remaining from the logline.

Alright. Next, consider the long name…

Teresa Una Natalia Orquidea Maria Beatriz Rosa Elena Esperanza Soledad Ursula Nelia Alejandra Noemi Aurelia Gomez Ramos Alvarez Mendosa Aragon Esposito Nunez Izquierdo Navarro Garcia Lopez Estrada Santos

See even here there is a small anomaly, a name that doesn’t seem to belong. It’s “Ursula”, a name that’s the least typically Spanish one of the group, and stands out in that way as being of different origin.

We thus end up with 3 salient words in the logline. Demon, archaeologist and Ursula.

Moving on.

Remember how I mentioned that my first idea was “When [Long Spanish Name] realizes…”, well, I liked it so much that I even attempted to make it “serious”, in a way. Indeed with a few tweaks from its original set of names arranged primary for melody, that long name is actually part of the logline.

If you pay attention to the first letter of each of the names…

Teresa Una Natalia Orquidea Maria Beatriz Rosa Elena Esperanza Soledad Ursula Nelia Alejandra Noemi Aurelia Gomez Ramos Alvarez Mendosa Aragon Esposito Nunez Izquierdo Navarro Garcia Lopez Estrada Santos

They spell…

Tu nombre es un anagrama en ingles.

… meaning “your name is an anagram in English”. I imagined that if this were a movie, and we’d establish that Teresa has this family curse, she’d one day go through her birth certificate, noticing this pattern, a message very clearly meant specifically for her, and it’s when a lot of the puzzling would start.

Because it’s considerably more difficult to decipher an anagram than to make one, I’d imagine Teresa spending some time researching potential terms in the fictional movie. Going through candidate words such as “Sun”, “Omen”, “Uranus”, “Eternal”, “Memories” or “Mirage”, perhaps. Any of these could be great opportunities to show a bit more of Teresa’s feelings and motivations, before she finds the true solution to the anagram.

For the logline reader though, it was the salient words that would be used to provide at least a tiny bit of help. Something supernatural related to a demon, something connected to archaeology, and something that stands out as not Spanish.

This part, the creation of the dual-language anagram that then produces a message relevant to the story took the most time, and even though some of the words that finally made up the message could be rearranged differently, the meaning would not change substantially in either of the arrangements.

To spare you the puzzle work, the canonical line that the anagram spells for the story says:

Use a German rune in an Angel’s Tomb.

Which is (it follows) what Teresa will need to do to banish the demon within her. I suppose this would lead her on a quest to find the tomb of an angel (definitely an interesting thought for me) as she is deciphering runes, possibly linking her to an old German town where she finds fragments of her family tree… but any more and we’d be breaking one of the rules of loglines… never reveal the ending.

Ultimately, I’m not sure how many of the checkboxes for loglines this one actually ticks, and whether the hidden information even counts if the sentence were to be judged on its “loglineness”.

In the end though, if the alternative describing the same story would result in a logline that went something like this…

When she discovers a family secret, an aristocratic archaeologist embarks on a journey into her family’s past to finally end the curse that turns her into a demon at night.

… I would rather take the last place. It’s more than a fair price to pay for the creative bonding I experienced with Teresa as a character.

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