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Arts & Entertainment

Creating Memorable Characters: Part 2

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 16:44 min

Shonda shares her techniques on how to effectively develop and evolve your characters when writing your stories, including when and how to kill off characters.

Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.
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When I'm developing an ensemble of characters, I don't necessarily think this character has to be like this or this character has to be like this. It's a little bit like putting together a band. You want everybody to sort of harmonize well together. And not in a sense that everybody has to get along, but that there has to be a tune going on there that's interesting. So if we think about Scandal, you have Olivia, who is sort of your lead singer, and she works really well. But then you have to have Huck, who's odd but wise, and I always call him her you know attack dog, but he's odd but wise. He really does provide all kinds of strange wisdom. You have Abby, who is loyal, especially in the pilot, loyal and quiet and sort of there. Harrison, who's the smart one, who's sort of saying everything fast and sort of leaning into everything; Quinn, who's new. You have everybody sort of working in concert with one another so that you can sort of see who they are. And when you put them all together, they form a very nice group of people. I think when you're forming an ensemble, it's important to have somebody in that ensemble who is the voice of-- I don't want to just say dissent for the main character, but you need somebody for the main character to both be able to talk to and somebody who sort of makes sure the main character knows what they're doing wrong. And that doesn't necessarily have to be the same person, but you do need those two people in that world. You also need the person who's going to make sure that we know what is right and what is wrong in the world. On Grey's, that person is the chief. Anything the chief says, you believe without question. It's very interesting. He can say the sky has turned purple and everybody's like oh yeah, the sky's purple. But if Alex said it you'd be like, mm, I think he's lying. It's very interesting. You have the sort of moral compass people. Dr. Bailey is the person who can sort of fight with Meredith and tell her what she thinks she's doing right or doing wrong. Alex is the person that Meredith speaks to, and she tells her secrets to. So you have to have those people or else it doesn't necessarily lay out. And in a lot of shows, it looks very different. It can be kind of a total stranger that somebody talks to. It can be their, you know, kidnapper. It can be somebody in prison with them. It's always a very different look, but you need those people or else you're not hearing what's going on for real. It's just somebody talking to themselves. It's really interesting when you watch some shows and you realize that for a lot of characters, things happen around them, but they don't happen to things. Try to make sure your characters are happening to things. They are the ones making things happen. For better or for worse-- they could be destroying the world around them accidentally or on p...

Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Shonda's breakdown of the structure of her shows was amazing.

I found this extremely helpful and insightful, and will absolutely reference Shonda's teachings while writing my pilot. Thanks Shonda!

This class is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much!

Phenomenal. Worth the entire year's subscription just for this one inspiring class. I will be listening to this over and over and over. WELL DONE SHONDA!


Luis Miguel M.

I've been working for more than 3 months in my proyect, and I thought I had a clear idea of what my characters want and what they are doing. But now I understand more clearly what my characters need and how they react to things. Such a great class. As an actor, it also helps me so much to dive deeper into charcter psychology and creation. Wonderful lesson!!!

Jerome M.

This class and Shonda are as breathtaking as the shows she's created. I'm a music producer and have enhanced my craft by learning techniques from other artists. Shonda's ability to describe her brilliance so succinctly is masterful. I am truly inspired and will incorporate her techniques in my musical endeavors.


This class is a "Jewell Full of Nuggets." It is helping me put things in perspective. I have an idea that I plan to start researching on Friday.

Tomeka T.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this is helping me. I was all over the place and this is helping me put everything in order and perspective. I'm literally getting excited with every minute of this class! A wealth of information and I'm not even half way through the course. When I'm done with this, boy oh boy!

Melanie Star S.

Now there is a very interesting concept: "What they want is what THEY think they want and what they need is what YOU think they want or what you think they should have." That is extremely helpful.

Melanie Star S.

Love the talk about killing off a character; when you have to because an actor is leaving or when the story calls for it. As I am currently developing a 13 episode series, that is an element I had not yet considered. This whole Masterclass has been very informative! Loving it. Thank you.

Elana R.

outstanding. Shonda provides a compass for a landscape one cannot know without traveling at least once. Enjoying the details and guidance tremendously.

Val B.

It was a lot to take in but I took it in! Since I started the class I have been looking at TV shows differently. I have actually began to kind of pick them apart and try to understand why the characters did certain things and how the progression of the show was thought out. These are my thoughts on part 1 of Creating Memorable Characters.

Desmond K.

I love that she referenced the dynamic between Olivia and Mellie! The evolution of that relationship was done so well!

A fellow student

I've mostly wrote feature films and this is really helping me develop my shows. I love this!