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!”

photo by Wesley Chu

photo by Wesley Chu

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.

61 Responses

  1. Dan Wells

    I’m getting a distinct “Talented Ms. Ripley” vibe from your ability to so completely mimic another person. People always assume I’m the scary one on the show, but they have no idea :)

  2. Jules Andre

    I can’t prove it, (so take this how you will) but when I first heard of this contest, I immediately thought of the text analysis you did for Jane Austen and how perfect you would be. I’m glad that you got to play and employ that tool so effectively.

  3. Ronny

    I really don’t get bugging a popular author like Rothfuss about when the next book is coming out. As soon as he or his publisher gives even a hint of an update the internet is going to melt down. When ever I wonder when the next book by Rothfuss or China Mieville or Neal Stephenson is coming out I just google the authors name and “next book” or “new book”.

    Great job on the twitter impersonation. That was fun.

  4. Rob Bannister

    Now can you please get on and complete the “Kingkiller Chronicle” since Patrick clearly can’t be bothered? I’m sure you could do a good job.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Whoa.

      Look, even as a joke, that is so not funny. “Clearly can’t be bothered” is a hurtful phrase and demeaning of the amount of effort that goes into a book.

      Pat’s books in particular are huge. It took him ten years to write the first one and you’re taking the fact that book three isn’t finished to mean he doesn’t care? Any author who gets hit with that kind of attitude from their readers is going to feel slapped. Heck. I feel slapped and I only spent two weeks pretending to be him.

      When a book isn’t finished, believe me, the problem isn’t that the author can’t be bothered or doesn’t care. It’s that they care about it a lot.

      So in the future, don’t say things like that.

    2. Melanie

      Rob, you want it good or quick? You can have one. Most of us will take good over quick.

      Mary is right, even as a joke it was severely lacking. Please realize you talk to people not machines when you post things on the net.

        1. Melanie

          Sorry, I wasn’t trying to state that quick couldn’t be good. You have my apologies for any offense I gave. Congratulations by the way on your win.

        2. John

          Being both fast and good just means you can charge far more for your work.

          After all the full dichotomy is “You can have it fast, good, or cheap. Pick two”

  5. Amanda Jensen

    So you tweeted about links and information he’d already sent out, and hoped nobody would notice the timestamp?

    Alsso, I cheered aloud when I saw his announcement last night.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Not quite.

      I knew that he was going to post things on Facebook and his own blog, so I just kept a window open looking for them to go up. The moment one did, I linked to it as if I were the one that had posted it and was just cross-posting.

      The other trick was to let people know that a blog post was coming, which looks like something I’d say if I were about to sit down and write it. I knew about it because Pat had emailed me and the other players. The voters didn’t know that and I took ruthless, ruthless advantage of the fact.

  6. Denise

    I was inclined towards your account anyways since that was the one I’d been following since he’d set it up before the contest. But when you posted the exchange with yourself… it clinched it. I was utterly fooled.

      1. Denise

        The one you had with Tobias Buckell was a good one too. I was so disappointed though. Your Pat groked the snarky humor and I felt like “he” just got me. To me… you’ll always be “my” Pat. *with accompanying fan to forehead swoon* ;-)

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          The Toby one was awkward because he followed up by DM’ing the Pat account and I felt like I had to tell him. He’s a friend and tricking him over normal stuff was fine. Tricking him about kids was somehow over the line.

          On the other hand, for the rest of Twitter it totally sold the account as real. He gave me an opportunity to talk about how I couldn’t talk about Oot without talking about Oot at all. It was golden.

          And thank you for your loyalty. I’m glad you liked my rendition.

  7. Smurfy

    You played the response to the verification perfectly, it was not the checkmark but your *reaction* to the checkmark that duped this Rothfuss fan. Glad to hear so much careful thought went into the successful deception. I’m finishing up Sean Russel’s Initiate Duology right now, but I’ll be picking up your work next…you have a new reader as a small bonus prize for a job well done.

  8. CathyKJ

    Mary, I’m unfamiliar with your writing, but now I’m heading over to Amazon to check out your books. I can’t wait to see what your time and effort produces when allowed its own voice and more than 140 characters. Well done!

  9. Jani

    I think the only thing that kept me from voting for Pat_Rothfuss was the sheer number of tweets. I did not believe that a newcomer to twitter would tweet that much. But I was wavering right up until the very last minute! You were very convincing,very….Rothfussian? :)

    I am always simultaneously ecstatic and heartbroken when I find an author that takes a long time to publish. Ecstatic because the author will probably put similar amounts of effort into subsequent novels as the first. (Not intending to denigrate those who write fast. *shrugs* People have different creative processes.) Heartbroken because waiting is haaarrrrd!!!

  10. Lucas

    Wow, you had Pat’s voice down brilliantly Mary. It’s a lot of fun going over your tweets again, now that we know that you were behind the account and can admire how beautifully you played us all. You certainly fooled me, and I’d been reading Pat’s blog and books for years. Thank you for this glimpse behind the scenes, you certainly played a magnificently beautiful game.

  11. Darci

    Your books have been on my TBR list for a while, but now that I’ve seen how much research you’ll put into a twitter contest (and extrapolating from there how meticulous your book research must be) they’ve shot up the list.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      You should see my Jane Austen spellcheck dictionary. It flags words she didn’t use so I can look them up to see if they were used in the period. I may get a little wacky about language.

  12. Sara

    Strangley, I never thought Dan was the scary one on the podcast. I didn’t guess that any of the Rothfi were you, but it makes me really happy that one was. Of course, it also makes me happy that all of the false Rothfi were women, and women I’m already a fan of at that!
    Well played by one and all!

  13. Jared H

    It was actually because of the tricks you used that I was finally convinced you were #TheRealRothfuss; although I have a twitter account, it exists almost solely to DM friends all sekrit squirrel-like and because it got me beta keys to some game I don’t play anymore. I checked the contest in the beginning, then at the end I went back and caught the turn of phrase. Aside from the man himself, yours was the most “Pat-like”…and that, of course, is what fooled me.

    Hats off to you, madam. F’real, though.

    Here I will admit that although I have not read any of your work (not because of a prejudgment -per se-, they just come across as romance…and that’s not my cup of tea, personally*), I find myself keen to do so now.

    Also, if you do a signing within driving range of middle TN (say, perhaps, at Parnassus Books which I’m shamelessly plugging), there’s a better than fair chance that I’ll want you to sign a copy of the Name of the Wind. Since you’re, you know, the real Rothfuss ‘n all. It will, of course, then have to be signed by Pat. ’cause that’s how it works.

    *No offense to any romantic tea drinkers – enjoy what you love ‘n all.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Heh — “not because of a prejudgment -per se-, they just come across as romance…and that’s not my cup of tea, personally”
      You know you totally just pre-judged them as romances.

      But thank you for the congratulations. As for Parnassus Books, I’ve been trying to get in there. My family lives in Chattanooga.

      1. Jared H

        Hah! I totally did. I’ll try not to judge a book by its jacket. :-P If your personality and wit come through in your writing (and I can’t imagine this not being the case), I should be thoroughly delighted.

        And we’ll just have to get a fan campaign…fanpaign?…going for Parnassus to have ya’ on board.

      2. Jared H

        Okay, so I downloaded the sample to check it out; it was so well written, and the style and story so intriguing that I’ve bought the first book.

        Here I will try to remember not to talk so much with my foot in my mouth.

        1. Jared H

          This is definitely one of the times when I’m glad to be proven wrong. Thank you for putting pen to paper.

  14. Jared H

    Oh, and I could not agree more about the “third book” comments – they make me wish I had some way to filter the internet so Pat wouldn’t see them. Maybe just a “yes/no” thing for “were there ‘third book’ comments this week” or something. But alas, my internet magics are not nearly that strong. I just wish people would lay off, and/or remember the great many authors whose *many* works came out *years* apart and were still fantastic for all of that.

    Maybe people should go back and look at publication dates, just for perspective.

  15. Alexis

    During the contest I googled that delivery sandwich image you posted, and discovered images of the exact same sandwich with a different background. Which leads me to my question. Did you photoshop the sandwich yourself, or did you ask someone to edit the image for you? I’m trying to imagine that “Hey buddy could you edit this picture of a sandwich for me? No reason just need it for some stuff.” It was an extremely clever ruse and I tip my hat to you for that planning, copying Pat’s floor and book shelves was a cunning scheme. If I hadn’t discovered the editing in the sandwich photo, I would have been entirely convinced that you were the Real Rothfuss because your language and grammar mimicry is flawless. Also, I love Jane Austen and will be reading your books ASAP. Thanks!

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      I did that myself. I was not expecting your diligence. I could have flipped it, but I wanted the paper it was on, which was from the sandwich shop in Stevens Point. You’ll note that it was the last time I tried a photoshopped image.

      1. Alexis

        I aim for thorough diligence. The image was brilliant. Using a sandwich and the accompanying wrapping from his favorite local sandwich shop would have been a flawless design if google hadn’t developed ‘search by image’ and I must say that you should not give up on using photoshop because you made excellent use of it.

  16. Sally

    I didn’t know it was you, but I did think you weren’t him since you were TOO Rothfussian. Rothfusseque. Pattish. The Platonic Ideal of Rothfuss. I guess I figured “eh, too good to be true”.

  17. Filip

    I said as much at WFC, but you had me fooled from the start. i remember thinking “It HAS to be him. This Rothfii uses the exact same language as he does on the blog” (of which I am a huge fan).

    You have my congratulations and my admiration.

  18. Steve MC

    I was just editing through some notes on writing I’ve gathered over the last month, and one of them was this.

    I was planning my first tweet for a long, long time then decided fuck it, twitter is supposed to be spontaneous. So… I’m here.
    - Patrick Rothfuss

    It was your first or second tweet, and I thought, that’s him. Not just the word choice (though I commend you highly on the work you put into that – whoa, i mean, wow), but the humble, grumbling, i’m-just-one-of-you-while-being-a-really-cool-shit attitude we all know and love.

    I had to laugh at it, of course, and changed it to “- Mary Robinette Kowal, as Patrick Rothfuss.” Which is a first in my collection. :-)

    Now off to tell a friend about your Jane Austen book, and by the way, since you like typewriters so much, thought you’d appreciate this.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/shanerichmond/100005317/the-ipad-typewriter-and-other-ways-to-turn-a-new-gadget-retro/

%d bloggers like this: