It seems I had a little problem with Diet Coke. Let me elaborate.
I am a huge Diet Coke fan. I consume way more of this substance than is realistically healthy. I have attempted to wean myself off it many times, but the process is futile. Now I accept it as my vice and compared to other possibilities it’s not so bad. I may not be alone. I worked at a company where we stocked free beverages and Diet Coke was the most popular drink by a wide margin.
One of my beta readers, Therese, after completing a read through, made the statement, “I was expecting Diet Coke to have some involvement in the climax since it was mentioned so many times.” I guess what I created here was False Foreshadowing.
Isn’t this just a red herring? I think it's not and for a subtle reason. A red herring is defined as “something, especially a clue, that is intended to be misleading or distracting from the real issue.” The key word in the definition is “intended.” In my Diet Coke example, I did not put that foreshadowing in there intentionally, but it would have left the reader feeling gypped, as it did Therese. It was not misleading; it was just irrelevant.
I googled this term and found only a couple mentions in a different context: to describe foreshadowing that ends up being the opposite of what the reader expected. I think that’s more in line with a red herring, actually. Or if I had to make a term for it, I would call it “Deceptive Foreshadowing.”
So here is my definition of False Foreshadowing:
1: When you unintentionally include clues in your story that makes the reader suspect foreshadowing but which turn out to be irrelevant.
Once this was pointed out to me, it was simple to fix. I left two scenes in with Diet Coke, changed another to Dr. Pepper, change the fourth to Iced Tea, and removed the fifth altogether.
So there you go – avoid False Foreshadowing!