Nov 5 2013 1:30pm

How I Beat Pat Rothfuss At Being Pat Rothfuss

Mary Robinette Kowal and Pat Rothfuss

I am smug. Really, insufferably smug. Why, you might ask, do I have this excessive sense of pride? I will tell you. First, you should know about #TheRealRothfuss game.

For two weeks, Pat Rothfuss and five impersonators will all try to convince you that they are the real Pat Rothfuss on Twitter.

At the end of the two weeks, fans will be asked to vote for who they think the real Pat Rothfuss is, and the winning Twitter user will receive a $1000 donation to the charity of their choice, donated by DAW Books.

Next you should know that I was one of the five Rothfi impersonating Pat.

He didn’t tell us who the other players were, and assigned the Twitter handles out of a hat. The only rules were that we couldn’t make up stories about his son, we couldn’t change our accounts photo, and that Pat couldn’t post pictures of himself. Other than that, we could be as tricksy as we wanted to.

Now, here is where the smugness comes in. I had 42% of the vote. The next closest Rothfi was Pat himself (@PatrickRothfuss) with 15% of the vote. Mwhahaha! Or, as Pat would say, “Muahahahaha!”

This is the part that I thought you might find interesting, which is how I convinced people that I was him. Most of you know that I write this series of books set in the Regency and aim for the style of Jane Austen. I applied those same text analysis tricks to Pat’s writing. I was initially helped by a cheatsheet that Amanda, Pat’s assistant, put together for us that talked about things Pat does and doesn’t do. Beard jokes, for instance. Other people make them about him, but he rarely makes them.

Next, I read back through several post both on the blog and on Facebook. The comments were the most useful because that was where we got to see Pat in short form, which is what I’d be doing on Twitter. He had a couple of ticks. One was that he tends to use *asterisks* to emphasize things. He also usually does four dots in an ellipses, though not always.

When I wanted to write something, I’d plug the keyword into the search box on his site to see if he’d ever talked about the subject. If he had, I’d lift language from there, shifting it a little so that a google search wouldn’t return that exact sentence. If he hadn’t, then I’d write it trying to “hear” Pat say it. After I wrote it, I’d look to see if I’d used any idioms, slang or larger words. Then I’d again turn to the search box and look to see if he’d used the word, and if he’d used it in the same context.

For instance, I wrote, “Whoa guys.  Just scrolling through the bajillion tweets that accumulated while I was in flight. You’re all awesome.”

  • I searched for “Whoa” which he never used. I changed that to “Wow.”
  • “Bajillion” returned nothing, so I searched for “illion” to see how he handled long numbers. That gave me “approximately ten hajillion” which I lifted.
  • “Awesome” turns up a fair bit, including one phrase, “You guys are awesome.”

That made the whole tweet read as, “Wow. Just scrolling through approximately ten hajillion tweets that accumulated while I was in flight. You guys are awesome.”

I lifted language a couple of other times, including when he posted a link to Facebook and I just grabbed the exact words prefacing and retweeted them. Shortly after that tweet, a funny thing happened. My account got verified by Twitter as being “real.” We don’t know how being verified works, but we know it doesn’t involve contacting the person.

The fact that the photo my account was the same as his Facebook and G+ icons probably helped, but I can’t imagine Twitter making that the entirety of their process. My best guess was that they might have a bot that was looking for reoccurring phrases and the fact that I was lifting phrases triggered it. Four times. We kept changing my username and changing it back, which removes verification. Then it would return.

I had to play the verification two ways. One, I had to play it as Pat, who would be annoyed that his game was being disrupted and pretend to be someone else. But he couldn’t pretend too hard, or that would completely convince people that the account was Pat. Two, I wanted to win, so I did, in fact, want to convince people that the account was really Pat.  It was a fun challenge.

One trick I used…when he sent us an email telling us that he was going to do a blog post later, I tweeted, “We think we have a game plan for dealing with the recurring Verified tag *if* it comes back. Blog post forthcoming.”

I was banking that most of the voters wouldn’t know or think about the fact that he was telling us ahead of time when game related posts were going up. Regardless, whatever that process is someone at Twitter needs to take another look at it.

One of the interesting side effects of the game was that I started to feel responsible for Pat’s fans—not for the work that they loved, but for their well-being. Pat often talks about how amazing they are and he is not kidding. They are clever, funny, and completely dedicated.

The one thing I’ll say is that you guys should stop bugging him about the third book. Role-playing him for two weeks I have to tell you that my @Pat_Rothfuss account got asked that all the time. Even for me, it was wearing. It was clear that it came from a place of enthsiasm and love, but the cummulative effect in just the two weeks I was playing Pat was sort of depressing. As an author, I can tell you that it doesn’t help and the constant pressure sort of makes it harder to write. So from a Faux Rothfuss, please back off of the guy? You guys are awesome.

Meanwhile, I get bragging rights to being more Rothfussian that Pat himself AND the charity of my choice Con or Bust, gets $1000. Smug, I tell you. Insufferably smug.


Re-posted from Mary Robinette Kowal's site with permission.

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamour in Glass, Without a Summer, and the 2011 Hugo Award-winning short story “For Want of a Nail.” For all we know she is also Pat Rothfuss. Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Cosmos and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Portland, OR.

Anthony Pero
1. anthonypero
I would love to see you mimic Sanderson... on video, lol.
2. Freelancer
Well, well. So very fitting that you should out-Rothfuss that bearded mug. And perhaps you could out-write him as well, though it would be a duel for the ages.
Beth Meacham
3. bam
You have a right to be smug. Very very smug.
Joanna Truman
4. joannawrote
This is amazing. Good job! Those little tips and tricks for really nailing his personality are awesome - most people probably wouldn't have put that much thought into it and it totally paid off!
5. cisko
I think you could have caught me, but I caught you faking the mead photo. It didn't look like a real mead photo, anyway, and then I found the photo you took it from. A rare misstep!

Amanda fooled me, though. Too much Rothfussing for me to suss out!
Derek Broughton
6. auspex
OK, I won't bug Pat about the third book….

But can you tell us when you're going to release his third book? :)
Joseph Newton
7. crzydroid
Actually, YOU are awesome.

Congrats on a job well done. Today, Pat Rothfuss, tomorrow...Batman?
8. Daniel Hirschman
You played a beautiful game indeed! For me, the tweets about how opening a twitter account exposed you to even more pestering about the third book were the ones that convinced me your account was the real one. Also, the lack of excessive swearing which seemed to pervade some of the other Rothfi. Again, well played!
Kate Nepveu
9. katenepveu
And Con or Bust thanks you very much, too, and will be doing so more properly and publicly too very soon!
Bruce Arthurs
10. bruce-arthurs
I have added Mary Robinette Kowal to my list of Dangerous Persons.

(A recruiter from the NSA will be knocking on your door soon, MRK.)
Mary Robinette Kowal
11. MaryRobinette
Kate, I'm very happy to help. I think you do terrific work with Con or Bust.

Daniel: What's funny is that Pat swears like a sailor.

cisko: Your catch on the mead photo (It really was mead) taught me that I needed to be a LOT more careful. I was hoping that I could make mistakes early in the game while people were distracted by all of the accounts. If a reader caught me and posted about it, folks would remember that someone had made a mistake, but hopefully not which account.
12. Mndrew
Very amused when reading his results post that of all the suspected imposters (Scalzi, Gaiman, Wheaton...) he had, in fact, chosen himself a harem of lovely ladies to be his impersonators.
Of course, I would have done the same; but still, what are the odds? :)
Mary Robinette Kowal
13. MaryRobinette
I'm not actually comfortable with the term "harem" or the idea that he picked us because of our physical appearance.
14. Freelancer
Seems to be a running theme of late...

Forgive me for saying, but this particular retired sailor never once uttered a profanity in his 21+ years of active duty, and I'm not quite so much of an oddity in that regard as many might suppose. How Patrick swears is like Patrick, would it were not so.
15. Mndrew
Sorry, striving too hard for humor. As all of the imposters were well known and highly quaalified writers themselves I did not stop to think this might be interpreted negatively. I do appologize.
16. db105
This was fun to read. Mary Robinette Kowal proved she is smart and cunning. No wonder she out-Rothfussed everyone, even Rothfuss himself.

The chosen charity... oh, well, to each their own. Hopefully people having a very hard time, maybe in third world countries, will never hear about this way to spend charity money.
Joseph Newton
17. crzydroid
@16: "To each their own." Exactly. It is her choice what charity to donate to. That's what charity is. There are plenty of potential recipients of charity in the world, so people don't have to all donate to just one thing. Likewise, donating $1000 to the people having a hard time in a third world countries that you speak of will not alleviate completely the need for charity in the world. Please try to promote awareness for any particular charity you have in mind in a more positive and less condescending way.
Derek Broughton
18. auspex
Agreed. "Con or Bust" is a worthy charity. $1000 is not going to solve world poverty.
Tasha Turner
19. TashaT
Way to go. I've loved your books so far because they capture the time period so well. You should be smug. Some fantastic writing tips thanks. Congrats.
John Graham
20. JohnPoint
It was fun following the game, and congratulations! I was guessing that you (@Pat_Rothfuss) were Amanda (or possibly even Sarah) for precisely the reasons that you won -- you "out-Rothfussed Rothfuss". Nicely done!
21. Kylara
MaryRobinette !

I hope you and Pat are able to collaborate on a book or short story or something someday. That would be so awesome!!
22. CHip137
I'm not surprised that Kowal was the best mimic. A few years ago she was in the Kirk Poland (bad-prose pastiching) contest at Readercon; she got the highest score any player has ever made with a parody that ~80% of the audience picked as the original work (when compared anonymously with several other pastiches \and/ the original.

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