Here's the problem with my method: anybody - be it a prospective reader or agent - who picks up the book is going to judge it within the first few pages. I don't expect them to feel invested in my villain and keep reading for his slimy sake, plus the story isn't about him anyway. But a wisp of a young woman suffering from Stockholm Syndrome probably isn't going to hook many readers either.
I discussed this problem with one of my fellow Big Sur attendees and she pointed me toward a fantastic resource, which I'm going to share with you right now:
In the above video, agent Lara Perkins discusses how to write a gripping first chapter. She reinforced a lot of things I already knew, like the narrator should be assertive and confident, but she also had some great suggestions that hadn't occurred to me, like using a puzzle or a mystery in the first chapter. By raising questions in the reader's mind, you're compelling them to read on and get answers to their questions. As an avid reader myself, I love this method. It's like creating a contract with the reader:
You have a bunch of questions which you're dying to have answered, and if you read on, I promise to give you answers.Win-win!
After watching the video, the solution to my problem finally arrived. I didn't want to start the book with a browbeaten protagonist, but she hadn't always been browbeaten. Before she met the villain she was vivacious and lovely and definitely the kind of person a reader wants to root for. So that's going to be my first chapter - how did the villain and the MC meet, and how did the MC get to the point where she is now. This seems logical anyway because I want the reader to know that the MC's behavior is not a reflection of her natural state. She wasn't always like that, and she's capable of becoming herself - becoming better than her original self - again.