Specialty grains and hop combinations. Smell some of the specialty grains at your LHBS. Victory malt and some others add an interesting grain profile, and some are used in Amber ales. Honey malt adds some sweetness. the smell will hint what they will add to the beer. Check flavor profiles of different hops too. Using a hop with earthiness could maybe help. Or spice instead of floral.
You could also try googling for clones of the beers you like to see what is in them, and narrow down on how much you'll have to experiment to get what you want.