I’m now on the second week of the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass for television screenwriting and things are really heating up. After a very pleasant primer in week one, we’re getting into the good stuff (in my opinion).
What does the “good stuff” look like for me?
Well, as someone who is primarily writing novels, the good stuff is all about character and story. Don’t get me wrong, I have ambitions to write for television in the future so the advice about pitching and working on set will obviously be valuable. But the really juicy info for me is when Shonda starts talking about how to make your characters authentic.
The second week of the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass was great because we focused on:
- How to research your story: how to start with the basic resources, how to gain valuable details from talking to people, note-taking strategies, feeling the “click”, and case studies from Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.
- Creating memorable characters: how compassion plays a key role in crafting character, how to define your characters, the extent to which you need to know your characters, how to change your perspective when writing characters different from you, how to make an ensemble of characters harmonise, active vs passive characters, how to evolve your characters naturally, using visual benchmarks to reveal your characters story, killing off a character, and more case studies from Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.
I’m loving the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass but I will say that a potential drawback is that you will get more out of the course if you are acquainted with Shonda’s work.
Shonda makes heavy reference to her shows in order to illustrate points. Obviously this should be expected. Aaron Sorkin and Werner Herzog do the same thing in their MasterClasses. This is only a drawback if you haven’t seen the shows. Otherwise it’s a massive plus. You can still take the points and understand everything but something is lacking unless you’ve seen the shows.
Solution? Go watch the shows. I watched one of Shonda’s lessons in the morning and then watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy over dinner whilst taking notes. I watched the show with my girlfriend and it was super enjoyable because I had all this “inside baseball” knowledge from Shonda.
I was able to analyse exactly why she made certain dialogue and character choices and I also had an appreciation of the amount of work that went into one single scene. So it’s very rewarding to take the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass in conjunction with analysing/appreciating her TV shows.
For example, you can get A LOT of screenwriting knowledge from one of opening scenes of Grey’s Anatomy alone just by listening to Shonda speak about it and then studying it yourself:
I loved Shonda’s take on character and how she advices you to “fill up” your characters’ worlds. I’ve used her 4 clarifying questions for constructing character already and these have proved to be invaluable tools for getting right to the heart of what makes someone tick very quickly.
In week one of the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass, Shonda gave some very valuable information on how to structure your story depending on the story itself. Clearly this is one of her screenwriting tricks because she does a similar thing to constructing character. She goes in depth discussing how she approached writing the characters on Grey’s Anatomy and the characters on Scandal differently and why.
The Shonda Rhimes Masterclass provides fascinating and valuable insights for anyone who wants to write better characters.
Shonda has a lot of great tricks when it comes to writing characters.
One of her tricks (which I have actually already used many times myself) is to take half the characters you made men and make them women. You should also take half the characters you would cast as one colour and cast them differently.
Shonda’s screenwriting advice goes into a lot more depth than that but, because this is an information course, I can’t give it all away. You’re going to have to enrol yourself.
But should you enrol in the Shonda Rhimes Masterclass?
Is it worth $90?
If you have that money to invest in your craft then hell yes it’s worth it.
It’s worth every penny.
If you can’t afford the course, obviously don’t be getting yourself in debt for it. Just save up and buy it when you can. Although I would argue that if you are already interested in the course, you love Shonda’s work, and you have writing ambitions, you probably can afford it. $90 is a drunken night at the club. You can forego one night of “bottle service” if you really want the course. And, trust me, you’ll get a lot more out of Shonda’s course than a drunken night!
Anyways, those are my thoughts for week 2 of the Shonda Rhimes Teaches Screenwriting For Television MasterClass.
More updates coming soon! I love the course so much that I really want to binge it but I’m forcing myself to slow down!
P.P.S. I’ve finished week 3 of the MasterClass. Check out my review here.