Little Extra Details
Little extra details are what can be the most fun part for anyone looking at a layout. While a detailed planned out scene may be interesting, it's little extras that can surprise people.
This black bear is often overlooked when people initially see the layout. Once they find it they can't believe they overlooked it and it's something they never expected to see. The bears den is located under the bridge.
Here is a cabin set back in the corner of the layout in the middle of the woods. Many people would ignore a spot like this because it's separated from the bulk of the layout by the tracks. I put down a small dirt road which leads to the edge of the layout suggesting that it starts before you reach the layout itself.
If your layout has streets then adding a little detail can make a big difference. Draw inspiration from the streets you drive on each day. Streets have patch marks, they have sewer drains, and most of all, they have lines. Getting perfect lines on a curvy street is near impossible in Z scale, but in larger scales they're much easier to do with decals, stencils, and patterns you could follow. When I did my storm drains I even removed the part of the layout they covered and painted it black so when you look at it you don't see it simply placed on a painted street.
Weeds, shrubs, flowers, and tall grass are easy to add to any layout and help add some color (particularly flowers).
Tall grass in a water drainage way are easily seen against the dirt.
Use figures! Have them doing every day things like going to the Post Office or going for a jog. While figures waiting at a train station makes sense and looks good, having figures in motion adds the sense of movement to the layout.
Think outside the box, or fence in this case. This fence was left over fence from my basketball court. I cut it in half height wise, spray painted it black, and bent it into shape. Most fences in layouts are displayed as closed fences or a fence with an opening and no door. I cut the end of the fence off and bent it to show that the door is open. I feel confident that there is no other Z scale layout with a feature like that!
Be as unique as you can be. I got a bunch of 1:220 fire hydrants from www.ShapeWays.com which is a website that uses 3D printers to create any item. I saw them on their website, ordered them, and painted them once I got them.
I would like to introduce the world's first (most likely) Z scale Cornhole boards!!! Custom made of styrene I have built Cornhole boards TO SCALE!!! Now the people can enjoy a nice game of Cornhole in their backyard. This is an item that makes my layout unique from every other Z scale layout in the world! Until someone replicates mine that is. Now that's outside the box!