Chapter 4 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

Developing the Concept


Show titles, story bibles, tone, structure - Shonda walks you through how to take your idea and turn it into a fully-fleshed out concept.

Topics include: An Idea vs. a Premise • Story Bibles • Show Titles • Structure and Tone

Show titles, story bibles, tone, structure - Shonda walks you through how to take your idea and turn it into a fully-fleshed out concept.

Topics include: An Idea vs. a Premise • Story Bibles • Show Titles • Structure and Tone

Shonda Rhimes

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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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 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.

Watch, listen, and learn as Shonda teaches you how to write, pitch, and create a hit TV show.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Shonda will also respond to select student questions.


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

The idea of creating Master Classes was pure genius! Shonda Rhimes is great at communicating her knowledge and this has helped me tremendously!

I've purchased multiple MasterClass courses. This is the best. Shonda is a genius at the medium; as good at this, I mean to say, as she is at writing stories the country loves.

Shonda's Masterclass was AMAZING and VERY INSPIRATIONAL!!! I really enjoyed her stories about her path to success and her unapologetic honesty. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and hosting this Masterclass. It has been a real treat and I look forward to working with you one day. - Lawrence ​

I came in this class not knowing everything and now I'm leaving this class knowing more than ever. This was an experience for me.


A fellow student

Loving the course so far, but the link to download the Story Bible is broken (as others have pointed out). I have put in a ticket with support to notify them of the problem and they are working on it. But if this link or any other in the course does not work for you, please contact their 24 hour support team (they're very fast!) and ask them to email you the missing file(s). I did, and had the Story Bible in under five minutes. Now that's great customer service!

Mikaylynn W.

I think this was my favorite lesson so far. I honestly love the development part of writing and coming up with ideas, and characters. I took down so many notes and this will be the lesson I will probably revisit often.

A fellow student

Brilliant brilliant brilliant! I’m an actor and she answered so many questions that I was eager to solve

A fellow student

Lots of information. Interesting what Shonda said about the tone of the show changing from season to season.

Kristina T.

Anybody have a link to Chapter 4: Developing the Concept pdf. It won't let you download it.

Alyssa M.

Hey I'm getting an error message whenever I try to download the story bible. Any suggestions?

Denise J.

I'm back in the game and reviewing the assignments. It's interesting to me that even though it's a show "bible" I don't need to have everything figured out and I can veer off course or make changes along the way organically... Also for writer's block there are various subliminal audios that you can listen to on websites such as the one below..Search for others as well on You Tube.... They really work....

Rob G.

I've been hung up on names for so long, and I knew I was doing something wrong. From now on I will have to keep things untitled and really focus on the idea at hand for a show. Then worry about those small things later.

Olie K.

I too need to stop getting so hung up on names and titles. They often distract me from the actually story I'm trying to convey but creating my story book ahead of time has really come in handy. Especially when I'm experiencing some major writer's block.

Sol M.

Love this class! Been holding onto a 'sticky' idea and now will make the move to develop it fully.


Here's the difference between an idea and a premise. An idea is, what if I wrote a show about gangsters? A premise is, really, filling that out. It's, what if I wrote a show about modern day gangsters who lived in New Jersey, and that gangster went to see a therapist on a weekly basis, because they had problems? The Sopranos. That's the difference between an idea and a premise. And, I think that makes it really clear, because the more specific the idea is, the more it becomes a premise. That's a good way to think about it. Really, you're taking an idea, you're sort of honing in on it. You're thinking, I want to do a show about surgeons. I want to do a show about surgical interns. I want to do a show about female surgical interns, and how hard it is to be them. I'd love to do a show about female friendship while they're surgical interns. They need to be competitive. A woman whose mother was a famous surgeon, and what's that like to have that as your history, and then you're struggling to live up to something. The more specific you become as you think about who the characters are, and what the world is, the better it can be. Anybody can say, I want to do a medical show, but you have to do a medical show that's about something very specific, in order to make it an original idea. I want to do a show about astronauts, yes, but that's not the same as wanting to do a show about a very specific piece of that. Think about journalism. Who, what, why, when, where, and how? If you can't answer those questions, you don't have anything to talk about yet. You really need to be able to say the who, and the what, and the why, and the when, and the where, and the how. And, as well, what are the central conflicts? What do the characters need? What do they want? What are they searching for? You should be able to tell somebody your premise in a couple of sentences, and have it be able to be clearly stated, so that they can understand it. I want to do a show about competitive surgical interns, at the center of which is Meredith Gray, a woman who is hiding the fact that her mother has Alzheimer's. You really want to be able to be concise, so that when you're telling your story, you know what you're talking about. If you don't know what you're talking about, no one else will, either. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think when you're developing a story-- I don't necessarily think of it as, there needs to be this character, this structure, it has to be this genre. I don't think of it that specifically. I mostly-- and I think that it's more organic this way-- I mostly try to think, who am I telling a story about, and what story am I telling? I look at it that way, and I really try to make sure I can tell a story. I don't know if that's helpful, but, for me, everything is about the journey of the character. Who is this person? What journey are th...