If the piece expresses opinion and a conclusion, or has some personal resonance, it’s likely an essay.
If it is simply the telling of a tale without opinion, it’s probably an anecdote.
He walks over the stains from the previous year’s crop and prays against a late frost.
One year, he catches the fragrance of newly turned soil coming from deep in the big woods and there he discovers new adventures.
The difference is that anecdotes are often based on an experience (real or imagined) being told to the reader, while an essay is usually expressing feelings.
So what distinguishes essays, anecdotes, and stories?As we discussed last time, to be a STORY in the literary sense, the piece must possess a goal (or desire), conflict, and resolution (or resonance with the reader).Below I present a short piece of mine that was published in a small literary magazine in 2005.Starting off a piece of writing with an anecdote about a person can work well to catch reader’s interest, because we all like stories. I’ve been listening to the radio [...] I heard the Englishman speck [...] I’m glad they accepted the surrender terms. All right good – bye." (David Mc Cullough – Mama’s Boys) Sometimes you may remember an incident from your own life that might make a good opening anecdote.The biographer David MC Mc Cullough uses an anecdote about Harry Truman’s mother to begin an article about several highly successful men for whom a strong relationship with their mothers was extremely important. Here the novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver does just that in the first paragraph of her essay about how much friendlier people in Spain are toward children than are people in the United States by telling about potentially offensive incident to which many women can immediately relate, Kingsolver catches her readers" attention and draws them into the body of her essay; As I walked out the street entrance to my newly rented apartment, a guy in maroon high tops and a skateboard haircut approached making kissing noises and saying, “Hi gorgeous.Each spring he walks this same path searching for wildflowers and the mysterious green umbrellas, whose real name he never knew, sprouting up from the forest floor.A smaller part of his woods inhabit the back of the property.We’re not going to discuss this further other than to point out what it is.An article consists of straight facts, without opinions.But his favorite things are the nine wild cherry trees.As spring arrives, he waits for their blossoms to make dark, sweet promises.