Chapter 2 of 30 from Shonda Rhimes

Teach Yourself TV Writing


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

Topics include: Television vs. Film • Read and Dissect Scripts • Rules of Television

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

Topics include: Television vs. Film • Read and Dissect Scripts • Rules of Television

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.

Everything I dreamed it would be and more! Thank you Shondaland!

authentic, honest, compelling.... Thank You!

I'm excited to add to my skillset. I have some experience in this field and some knowledge about Ms. Rhimes work and would love to learn from her.

This is definitely the best online class I've taken. The mix of technical/esoteric was just right. I'm a multi-NYT-bestselling author exploring how to adapt my books for TV and film, and the deconstruction of the pilot scripts was incredibly helpful.


Mikaylynn W.

So I am back again and I fell in love with the TV Shows Atlanta on FX and Grownish so these are two shows on my list to dissect. Both shows just feel fresh and different to me as well as extremely relate able. I also have great Netflix recommends I leave below as well. - On My Block - Gossip Girl - YOU -Russian Doll -Stranger Things -Haunting of Hillhouse ( If you like something scary).

Shaun N.

When I did this before, I pulled apart Ugly Betty which I can really recommend. I think I'll do The Marvellous Mrs Maisel this time, as I think that show's pilot and debut season is note perfect!

A fellow student

Wow. Very exciting. I will probably never actually write a tv show or a pilot but I do enjoy listening to master's of the craft talk about their approach to their craft. Making a character smarter than the audience is similar to what Dan Brown was talking about and reminds me of Frasier where the 2 main characters are smart and not even relatable but at the same time completely relatable.

Laura A.

Loved this. I'm taking this for a very different reason than I suspect a lot of people are. I am a media critic and analyst. I'm done some teaching on film studies, and a lot of writing, but it's very much based on what other film theorists have written. I have found over the years that the interviews I have done with actors, directors, writers/showrunners, etc have taught me a lot more about the process than I have learned anywhere else. So I'm taking this not to learn about how to write a TV script but how to understand more of the writing process behind that script. This lesson has been very helpful as background for that because the process for becoming a good critic requires the same process as Shonda describes for writes: research and analyze the good and the bad and understand what made it good and bad...and know what is out there in both categories. Right now, I'm doing the process she describes around the West Wing with Criminal Minds--and analyzing a single character (geek Spencer Reid, because I write primarily for geekier audiences). It's fifteen years of TV character development and there's actually a lot of it, and it's frankly very well done both by the writers and, as I am finding out in my research, by the actor. Understanding that dynamic, and how it changes over the course of a series, and how even the lack of attention to a character allows that character to change without you noticing is fascinating.

Lenci W.

I love the idea of dissecting scripts. It offers a completely different insight into the shows I love. I an intrigued to see how this process goes for shows that I believe didn't work.

CeeJai J.

How are different people telling the same story? I love that idea listen for the spin... Watch shows that you love and shows that you hate and dissect both. Watch to learn not to copy!

Joseph Y.

I found this lesson to be extremely helpful. I compiled a long list of pilots to study; however, I am focusing the majority of my attention on the pilot episodes of Queen Sugar and This Is Us. I am already learning so much! On to lesson three!

Katherine A.

Definitely will come back, after some serious binging. I'd love to get my hands on the pilot script for Money Heist. Such a good show


Guys I CAN'T FIND SCRIPTS ANYWHERE. I only find pilots, not entire season scripts. Please, help me!


Just started this class today and am very excited to start writing again. I think Shonda will have amazing insights into not just writing, but actually overseeing a show. I've worked with a few different showrunners and I think it's tough to manage all that's involved so it's rare to see it done successfully. I think she will be a great mentor! I'm choosing to dissect season one of True Detective which I feel was done almost flawlessly. I tend to easily forget shows that don't work for me so choosing that one will be more difficult!


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...