There's a TL: DR version at the bottom of this post! Sorry if I ramble! I know the WHAT of my plot, but I'm having trouble nailing down some of the WHYs. As it stands, unmarried younger sister allows married older sister to secretly adopt - not legally, just by private agreement - her 'bastard' (such a horrible word) child. The motivations for this are strong because it's in the 50's, which places the women within a veritable hotbed (freudian slip?) of child/marriage related stigmas and social expectations. Younger sister doesn't want the small, narrow-minded town to know she has fallen pregnant out of wedlock. (why does this matter?) Older married sister sees an opportunity to rescue her own shameful reputation as the 'barren wife'. (why does this matter?) Obviously, this child-swap needs to come back and bite them on the backside. Hard, preferably. And there needs to be a really powerful reason why they would keep this secret for the next X number of years. Social stigma and small-town small-mindedness are not enough of a motivation if I want these to be believable and meaningful characters worth rooting for. As it stands, I've decided the younger sister gives her child to her older sister, but then a year or two later falls pregnant again. (Really, Cecilia. Keep it in your pants.) She can't just give a second child away. She decides to give parenting a go. After all, this time she is out of school, is a bit older and hopes people will be forgiving. People aren't. When the second child dies tragically in a drowning accident as a toddler, Cecilia's going to lose her grip, something will snap inside her (not sure whether this is permanent or temporary). Her words to her older sister will haunt Eleanor "I want her back." - Referring to the first child, which C gave to E several years earlier. C feels that getting back her first daughter will fill some of the void of losing the second (well, losing both, effectively). So that death and the "I want her back" trauma will be part of the climax of the book. But WHY does any of this matter? I can't figure out what the stakes are. Why have the sisters shaped the entire last 4-6 years around keeping this secret? It has to be bigger than prejudice. There has to be something more at stake. And I can't for the life of me figure out what that should be. TL: DR - What would motivate two sisters to keep a private adoption secret from their family and town, with the impending sense that everything will unravel and major ramifications will be had should anybody find out?