When people ask me how I came to write "Proud Souls" or where I got the inspiration to create such vivid scenes, settings and literal imagery, I like sharing the special [common] places that are part of my everyday life, that became settings within my novel.
As an example, there is a scene where I describe Reverend Polk's living quarters behind the church. His home is nothing more than a garage loft-style apartment. I described the green grass at the base of a wooden staircase that meets a small deck where he likes to drink tea outside. Now, ordinarily I wouldn't have come up with something like that, even if I was in the creative mood. That was actually an actual home behind one of my neighbors houses, where (I believe) a son lived with his mother. The primary residence was his mother's house and he lived in the back--the very nice and elaborate garage apartment out back. Every morning when I would review the entries for "Proud Souls" I made the previous night, I would watch him come out, down the wooden staircase and water his grass while having coffee. The particular morning I was working on Reverend Polk's home and the history of where he lived and how he came to live there--it just made sense to me.
Another example of how common settings in our lives can be transformed into more elaborate settings for our novels is the moment where I described the town bar, The Hawk's Nest. This was Tessa Jameson's metaphorical prison and it was important that I identified with my audience, regardless of where they lived in the world. Now, that's a pretty extensive goal, to say I am going to create a world that will identify with a vast majority of my readers, but it is something I feel as a writer you must try to accomplish.
To master this I had to first determine what made a bar "common." I have been to the "hole-in-the-wall" bars and the more elaborate high-dollar bars where you literally buy a 12-pack of bottles for one drink and the underlying theme in each of them is freedom. People feel free to become something other than themselves--the person they can't be and would never become at work--or at church or in front of in-laws, etc. I paid close attention to why people went to bars and how they acted (or didn't act) when they arrived and how they were when they left. I listened to them talk, quietly and discreetly at first, and then louder, free to share their feelings and expressions with complete strangers over time (and drinks). Regardless of where the alcohol was being served, I found people came in the same way and left the same way. So, I targeted those emotions within the settings for my bar--The Hawk's Nest--just enough for an average person--male, female, young, old, etc--to identify with. That is why so many people say, "I feel like I have been in that bar you talked about."
When trying to draft a story and you feel your setting lacks powerful characteristics or worse, maybe you feel you haven't "been anywhere" and because of that your stories can't compete with more "experienced" writers...stop and look around. Take in your own environment and use people, places and things common to your everyday walk and then put on your creative hat and let your imagination take control. By using people, places and objects common to your everyday life, it at least gives you a baseline for drawing your story...with words...
Best of luck to you.