Carver has a distinct writing style, a strong, minimalist approach that critics often compare to the writing of Ernest Hemingway and Anton Chekhov. Carver liked to focus on down-and-out, blue-collar, middle-class people facing bleak truths, disappointments, and small revelations in their ordinary lives, all subject matter that places him firmly in the “dirty realism” school of writing. Other dirty realism writers include Bobbie Ann Mason, Ann Beattie, and Richard Ford. Besides the style and subject matter, Carver’s short stories are known for their dialogue, which mimics realistic speech patterns, and their abrupt endings—also called zero endings—that fail to tie up the story neatly, if at all.
Carver's career was dedicated to short stories and poetry. He described himself as "inclined toward brevity and intensity" and "hooked on writing short stories" (in the foreword of Where I'm Calling From , a collection published in 1988 and a recipient of an honorable mention in the 2006 New York Times article citing the best works of fiction of the previous 25 years). Another stated reason for his brevity was "that the story [or poem] can be written and read in one sitting." This was not simply a preference but, particularly at the beginning of his career, a practical consideration as he juggled writing with work. His subject matter was often focused on blue-collar experience, and was clearly reflective of his own life. [ citation needed ]