Chapter 3 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

Finding an Idea


It all begins with an idea. Shonda reveals her process for finding and assessing ideas, and determining what makes a great idea for a TV series.

Topics include: Where to Find Ideas • What Makes a Great TV Idea • Making Ideas Original •

It all begins with an idea. Shonda reveals her process for finding and assessing ideas, and determining what makes a great idea for a TV series.

Topics include: Where to Find Ideas • What Makes a Great TV Idea • Making Ideas Original •

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.

Learn More


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.

Mrs. Shonda Rhimes shared her learning experience and covered most of the writing arenas I face in my writing. Her pilot scripts and topics she covered are a great source for writing my own stories. The art and business of television writing wouldn't be known if I didn't attend her class. Daily writing tips was the most inspirational resource from a Master like her.

I loved this class! I especially liked lesson 25, the introvert's (me) lesson on writer's room etiquette.

Learned better writing habits. Learned how to get into a creative space. Learned about writing story around characters and their development. I'm so inspired by Shonda and her journey.

I've learned so much about dialogue, character development and showing the relationships between characters. I also learned about juggling several storylines, and how to manage them. This has been great!


Mikaylynn W.

I learned a lot from this lesson and reading everyone's commentary. I think what I took away was "does your art meet the business?" because at the end of the day that is the truth. With that being said I think Shonda was saying its important to also know what companies are looking for when trying to pitch your show and to do research. In other words, what will make a great home for you TV show to live on, and thrive.

A fellow student

I'm thinking of doing a Grey's Anatomy kind of show but in a waiting room.

Tiffany M.

How do you find out what the Studios are looking for? I'm game for writing assignments and like Shonda, I find it easier to write within guidelines sometimes. PS So for this is my favorite lesson!

Melissa H.

What were the newspapers she said she read? I can't find that clip. I'm not even sure that it is in this lesson. Thanks for the help!

Kathryn C.

The idea of what is really original, kind of left me scratching my head. But when Shonda explained that it's "if it feels surprising", made it much more clearer, at least for me.

Ashley H.

I like to either meditate or listen to classical music or any music for that matter when I'm writing. I came up with a dozen of scenes for a project that I'm working on and it was so much fun to create. You can definitely set a tone or mood by selecting a certain genre of music.

Paisley B.

I'm excited about this assignment and will take my time developing the (10) ideas and selecting the (2) I'll work on throughout the class. The amazing news is, I already soft pitched one idea to friends and family on a recent trip home for a funeral. This idea sticks with me and it's garnered all the ideal responses from people one would hope to have. One frustration is, my title is already being used on a brand new hour long drama set to air this Fall. Still, mine is a 1/2 hour comedy and I can pick another title. Onward and upward!!

Meghan F.

I like that this video demonstrates the characters' arc. In the sense that just like literature, there is a dynamic character (one that changes), and a static character ( one that doesn't). Also that the tone or mood is important for conveying the message ( i.e. optimistic versus pessimistic).

Dorothy H.

OK, I will admit I love Shonda. but I have never watched Greys Anatomy...But I have watched and loved and miss Scandal and please believe How to get away with murder...I so love this show. Is it possible that I Can get the Bible and more scripts on those two? Sorry not sorry but I love the two I mentioned, So do I need to get into Greys Anatomy? because reading the material on this show is so foreign to me...I am still your number one fan Shonda...I will watch Princess Diaries a Trillion more times. I already think I hit the Million mark with it :-),

Consuella H.

I found this very interesting, I wrote a book which was published about my idea and now I want to present the idea for a possible TV show. I've already begun writing the script, which ultimately lead me to this Master Class to understand the process. I want to thank Christine Lygre for the information she provided to the class.


People always ask, where do your ideas come from? Where do you get your inspiration? And, for me, that is such a crazy question. I don't know how to answer it all the time, and I think it's because my ideas come from everywhere. Your ideas should come from everywhere. They come from a conversation I have with somebody. They'll come from a fight I overhear while standing in a coffee shop. They'll come from-- I'll read some tiny, little thing in an obituary somewhere, and I'll go, oh, that's a funny little detail. It doesn't really matter where they come from. They come from everything. They come from, you're sitting in a park, and you just see the way two people interact. Something sparks something, and that always turns into something completely different. It's not like you get an exact-- you hear an exact sentence from somebody-- and you go, I'm going to write a television show about that. Somebody says something to you that then turns into something else, that then turns into something more, and then next it's bloomed into a whole idea. That happens to me all the time, and it's about which ones you're going to settle down and write, really, because ideas are great, you have a ton of them. They're not all necessarily television series. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I have ideas, a couple of things happen. I have a journal that I keep. I've always kept a journal, and, sometimes, I write them down. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, and I write the ideas down, and I used to do that a ton. I used to do it a lot. I don't do it as much anymore, mainly because I have children now, and I value my sleep a lot more. But, also, because the things you write down in the middle of the night very rarely make sense. In the morning, you can never figure out what they meant. What I have started doing is taking notes in the little notes section of my phone, which is surprisingly effective, not just because you can dictate-- which you can-- but, also, because it's always readily available. I'm surprised at how many times I write something down. It does not necessarily have to be an idea, as much as it is a tiny line of dialogue, which is where I wrote Gladiator in a Suit. Or it's just a thought that you had, like, why is this a thing? Why blah blah blah blah? It's very interesting that that's a place where you can sort of keep a running tally of the things that you might have written on little Post-It notes all over your house. There's a place to keep it all, and I like that. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I'm looking at an idea, and I'm wondering, is this an idea for film? Is this an idea for television? Is it a movie? Is it a TV show? What you're really looking for is, what's the end of the idea? A movie idea has an ending. You can say, the bus that's been going 60 miles an hour, and hitting everything in speed comes to a...