How I Beat Pat Rothfuss At Being 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.


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