To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

Teach Yourself TV Writing

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 11:17 min

Shonda discusses the importance of knowing your television history and how you can learn some of the fundamentals of storytelling on your own.

Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda teaches you her playbook for writing and creating hit television.
Get Started


I always say, film is for the director. It really is. The director makes all the decisions. It's the director's vision. What's in the director's head is what's on screen. In television, what's in the writer's head is what's on screen. In film, the director fires the writer; in television, the writer fires the director. That's the joke-- which isn't really that funny if you think about it. Nobody wants to get fired. But it really is this medium in television where, when I think to myself, I want it to look like this-- interior, operating room, day-- they build the operating room that I imagined. And that's fantastic. I love the fact that I can have an idea and that idea can get realized that quickly. That is extraordinary. I think I love the intimacy of TV. You know, we spend more time with people in their living rooms-- my characters are in people's living rooms-- people spend more time with them than they do with members of their own family. You know, if you watched Grey's, you spent more time with Cristina Yang than you probably did with some of your closest friends. So when she left, you lost a friend. And psychologically that is true. Emotionally that is true. But also, you went on the journey that she went on; you learned things from her. You were with that character. There was an intimacy there. And it means that the world becomes a little bit smaller, to me. You know, 60 countries of people and 207 languages, that show. That means that the world is a much smaller place than we thought it was, because it means that all of those people are watching the same shows at the same time and caring about those characters. The storytelling in film is very closed-ended, obviously. You've got three acts. You've got your hero on a journey and that journey has to end. There's always sort of a very short character arc for your characters. A television show, what's wonderful is that your character-- your lead character or your lead characters, depending on how you're telling the story-- can go on sort of an endless journey. It's an endless adventure that you get to tell for as long as you'd like. I've been telling Meredith Grey's journey for 13 seasons now, and it's been going on and on and on. And so you get to watch a character grow and change and evolve, which is exciting. It's just a different level of activity, I think, and inner character development. I think all the writing is the same. It's not that the writing for television and the writing for movies is so different. I think any lesson I learned writing for movies is very similar to writing for television. Storytelling-- the art of storytelling is fundamentally the same, which is, if you are not writing from character, and what would a character do and is this actual human behavior, then you're not writing honestly. It's not going to resonate, and...

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.

Absolutely fantastic! Shonda pulls back the curtain and really demystifies the process and helps us to understand the world of a television writer!

I have never written a screenplay but might convert one of my short stories into one. Shonda, gave so much practical info that I can put o use.

Loved it so much! Each lesson just kept getting better. The only thing missing i would have liked to see is a makeshift writers room where she wrote an example script or scene with other writers and explained what everyone’s job was in the room.

Thank you, Shonda, you are an inspiration for women , particularly women of color. Now, in the light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, that of a mean , bully who wielded his power to force sex on numerous women, we need women like you in all places of power, so we can feel safe and supported and not exploited when we are trying to make it in the business. Peace out ,especially to the voiceless.


Laura G.

Does anyone have good "bad" pilot recommendations? I'm drawing a blank but would love to see the differences!

J O M.

Letting your characters be the smartest people in the room is a relief in a lot of ways. I love her thorough approach to learning what works, what doesn’t, but that there are so many options available. She doesn’t just love her chosen profession she exults in it.


I was given similar advice from a screenwriter about reading and dissecting scripts. While going through the process I really enjoyed it as it caused me to think deeply about what was happening in the story. It was also helpful for seeing thing I hadn't noticed before in shows I've seen many times. Knowing TV history is important and IIm looking forward to studying how TV has changed over the years.

Desmond K.

She touched on all of the things that I love most about the medium of TV! I also love her advice about fundamentals and knowing your history!

Maya H.

I enjoyed learning about dissecting tv shows, because I naturally do that. I always analyze the show, character movements, structure, etc. So learning that writers should do that reinforced some excitement in me.

Gloria A.

This is really useful stuff and what she is explaining is evident in Greys Anatomy, like talking about being original Eg. Mick Dreamy and Mick Steamy, simply classic content.

Joya O.

An Idea realized quickly... is there anything better?! This woman is Super Woman!

Jevon P.

Writer control tv. Love that. I do love the characters of my favorite shows more than movies. They are my friends !

Deborah R.

I don't want to study old TV shows, I want to create something radically different. Things in TV need to change! It's hard for me to find anything I want to watch, it's just the same recycled over and over...


Great lesson! I love watching tv from the past. So, I feel very excited about dissecting a variety of pilot episodes and their scripts.